The Eyes of Your Heart

Original Date: 
Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ephesians 1:15-23 Beyond Sunday Morning: The Eyes of Your Heart

Chariots of Fire
One of my favorite Bible stories is tucked away in 2 Kings chapter 6. It’s a story about a man named Elisha.

Elisha was a prophet. That means, God told him things that He didn’t tell other people. As a prophet, Elisha often spoke to people on God’s behalf.

In this particular case, the thing God was telling Elisha about was the troop movement of a certain king. You see, this king was at war with Elisha’s people, and he was hoping to catch Elisha’s army in a trap. But each time he moved, God would tell Elisha about it and Elisha would contact the generals of his army and tell them to avoid those places. It was sort of like Elisha had his own spy satellite.

But, eventually, the enemy king found out what Elisha was doing and he became very upset. He sent out his own spies to find out where Elisha was, and then he sent a detachment of soldiers to capture him. The Bible gives a sense of just how mad he was, because it says he sent a “strong force” under the cover of night to surround the entire city.

All of this for one little, old prophet.

So, the next morning, Elisha’s servant got up and went outside, and what he saw freaked him out. He sees all these horses and chariots and angry men surrounding the city, and he realizes they’re looking for his boss.

So the servant runs to wake up Elisha and sort of panics. “What are we gonna do?” he says. “They’ve got us surrounded.” Maybe he even said, “Now look at what you’ve gotten us into. We’re gonna die.”

But Elisha does something rather surprising. Instead of panicking, and trying to make a run for it; or grabbing his sword and trying to fight it out; he says to his servant “Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

At the Bible Conference about a month ago Mark Ashton, a pastor from Omaha, preached an excellent sermon on this story. And that verse is the one he emphasized. “Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” It’s a great line.

But it didn’t make immediate sense. I can just picture Elisha’s servant at this point: “Um, let’s see. More with us than there are with them. O.K. We’ve got, um, me…and…Elisha. That’s two. They’ve got, um, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11… Wait a minute Elisha! They’ve got a whole army. There’s just two of us! What chance do we have? We’re gonna die.”

And then, the Bible says:

“And Elisha prayed: ‘O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

It’s an amazing picture. The servant was looking around and all he could see were horses and chariots and very angry men who wanted to kill him and his master. Then Elisha prays, and his eyes are opened to the spiritual reality of the situation. Suddenly, he is able to see that God has forces—chariots of fire, angels—in place all around the situation. Those who were with them really were greater than those who were with the enemy.

Well, needless to say, things did not end well for those who had come to capture Elisha. God struck them with blindness and Elisha eventually led them back to their king in humiliation.

But the point of the story—at least the point I want to dwell on today—is that the servant’s eyes were opened to the reality of God’s presence. The servant had no idea how much he was missing out on until God revealed it to him.

I’m afraid that happens to us all too often. Either because we’ve grown familiar with the story, or because we’ve never really grasped it fully in the first place, we can miss out on what God is doing in our lives. Sometimes we forget all that we have when we have Jesus. When that happens, we need our spiritual eyes opened.

Beyond Sunday Morning…
We’re in a series called “Beyond Sunday Morning…” I introduced it last week. We’re looking at the process of spiritual formation and we’re asking what needs to happen for our faith to be more than a series of weekly meetings. And I gave you a definition for spiritual formation that we are going to use to shape our discipleship process here at Hope Church. We said:

A fully-devoted follower of Jesus is someone who is secure in God’s love, seeks for more of the things of God, serves with Christ-like character and shares Jesus with others.

And we showed you this logo:

The emphasis is on the four words that start with “S.” Over the next month, we’ll be looking at each one of them in worship. And today we are focusing on the word in the middle, the word “secure.” What I’m calling the Starting Point.

You see, my argument is that spiritual formation happens differently for every person. Some of us are more inclined to share our faith, while others are more drawn to opportunities to serve. There’s not a particular order these things have to follow, but the true disciple of Jesus will be growing in all these areas.

But the one thing that has to take priority is knowing where we stand with Jesus. We have to have an understanding of the gospel that saves us and we have to know that we are secure in His love.

And yet, it is that very thing that we can sometimes become blind to. Like Elisha’s servant, we sometimes need our spiritual eyes to be opened to remind us of what we have when we have Jesus.

That’s the point of our scripture passage this morning. Last week I mentioned several of Paul’s prayers for the churches that helped to shape our definition of spiritual formation. Well, here’s another place where Paul tells us what he prays for believers. Ephesians 1:15-23:

15For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17I 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. 18I 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, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21far 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. 22And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Think about Paul’s priorities here. What he’s saying is that when he thinks about this Ephesian church which he founded and continues to shepherd, this is the most important thing he can think to pray. The thing he “keep[s] asking” (17) God to do in the lives of these folks is written right here.

And so, if the great Apostle thought this was a priority for those he led, then shouldn’t it be a priority for us too?

Knowing God
The question is: what is it that Paul is praying for?

And the answer, in a phrase, is that Paul is praying that the Ephesians will know God better. This is the prayer we should be praying for our church and for ourselves: that we will know God better.

The key verses here are verses 17, 18, and 19.

After Paul begins by giving thanks for the Ephesians and the good reports he receives about their faith and their love, he tells them in verse 17 what he keeps praying for them:

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.

Paul wants them to know God.

Not just to know things about God, though that’s part of it. He wants them to know about God’s plan and their part in it; he wants them to know about the spiritual blessings God is pouring out; but just knowing facts and doctrine is not enough. Paul wants more for them than simply that they know about God, he wants them to really know God. To have a personal relationship with Him. To fully experience and live out these blessings.

And that’s what I mean by Spiritual Formation. That’s what I mean by the phrase “Beyond Sunday Morning…” Our goal as a church is not to see how many people we can get to fill the Harbor once a week, but to have as many people as possible enter into a deep and meaningful—fully-devoted—relationship with God.

So Paul isn’t just praying for head knowledge, he’s praying for heart-knowledge.

That’s why he adds in verse 18:

18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.

This is a wonderfully descriptive phrase. The “heart” in the Bible is the very essence of a person. It’s not just emotions or warm-fuzzies (like at Valentine’s Day), but in the Bible the “heart” is “the authentic you. The you that you really are. The person that you are when no one is looking. Emotions, yes, but also intellect, will, and personality.” (Matt Mitchell, A Prayer for Heart-Sight, Nov. 12, 2000) The “heart” is your inner-person, your spiritual self.

And Paul’s prayer is that the heart will sprout spiritual eyes to see God. That these folks Paul is praying for will know God, not just up here, in their heads, but down here, in the very essence of their soul. That they’d be able to open themselves up to the reality of the spiritual blessings that God is pouring out. That they’d know Him more profoundly, more fully, more really.

This sort of knowledge, this sort of “heart sight”, doesn’t come naturally. It’s supernatural. It comes from the Spirit, with a capital “S”. That’s why Paul prays in verse 17 for the Sprit of wisdom and revelation. We need God to help us know Him this way. We need God to enlighten us, to open the eyes of our hearts. Just like he opened the eyes of Elisha’s servant to the reality of the chariots of fire.

And this is the prayer we should be praying for our church, and for ourselves. That we would know God. That we would have a relationship with Him. That the eyes of our hearts would be open to see and appreciate all that God has done for us, so that we’ll treasure Him and walk with Him and live to His glory.

What Should our Hearts See?
At the end of verse 18 and in verse 19, then, Paul elaborates on three things he prays for the Ephesians’ hearts to see. Three things we need God to grant us heart-sight into.

I. First, that we would have heart-sight into God’s calling on us. Verse 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 key here is that God is calling us into hope. Hope is a future-directed word. My friend Matt defines hope as “faith directed towards the future.” In other words, hope is confidence about what is coming.

Hope, then, is not a wish. Not like: “O, I hope they have chocolate ice cream.” There’s no uncertainty here. This is faith directed towards the future. This is certainty about what God has in store for us.

So this is confidence about heaven. Knowing that we will go to be with Jesus when we die.

Hope is a future-directed word.

But I believe what Paul is praying for is heart-sight into this hope for the present. And I say that because Paul talks about knowing “the hope to which he has called you.” That word “called” is significant, because God’s calling isn’t just for the future, it’s for right now. When God puts His call upon your life, He’s calling you to do something, to be somebody.

What I take this to mean is that Paul is praying that the Ephesians will know that they’ve been called by God to be citizens of heaven living on earth. In other words, this isn’t just pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die. This is God’s calling you into such a certain hope for the future that you are free to completely and totally live for Him now.

In the Lord’s Prayer we pray for God’s kingdom to come, for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. And I think that’s the calling Paul is talking about here. Us, here on earth, working so that God’s will can be done. Us, working to bring a bit of heaven to our world.

This is something we should pray for our church. For our families. That we will be so filled with hope about our future that we can live freely and radically for God now. That we’ll know our true citizenship lies in heaven, so we can begin living as though we are already there.

II. Second, we should pray that we will have heart-sight into how much God values us Verse 18, again:

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know…the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.

The key here is to notice whose inheritance this is. At first glance, it seems as though this is talking about a glorious inheritance for the saints. Sort of a repetition of the first phrase, still talking about heaven. Other Bible passages talk about our glorious inheritance in heaven. And there is a connection here.

But notice, the inheritance is not ours, but God’s. Paul is praying that the Ephesians’ eyes will be opened so that they can see the riches of God’s glorious inheritance in the saints.

This is staggering when you realize what this is saying. God sees us, His saints, His church, His people, as His glorious, rich, inheritance.

Christ has redeemed, He has bought a people. And that people, the church, is a treasure in God’s eyes. He just loves us because of Jesus!

And we should be praying that our eyes will be opened to how much God loves us. My prayer is that everyone in this church will know how precious and important we are to God.

Now, a word of caution here. We’re not talking about self-esteem run amok. There are some theologies out there that give the impression that we are so wonderful and important and all that that God simply could not bear to be without us. Like we are all the Peyton Mannings of the spiritual world and there is no way God would want to leave us off His team. We shouldn’t get the impression that we are indispensable to God.

We become a glorious inheritance of God through Jesus—it’s because of what He has done, because of His amazing grace, not because of anything in us. And so, God’s love should humble and floor us. That He could look on a community of sinners, “rescued from perdition and still bearing too many traces of their former state”, and still place such a high value on us is nothing short of astounding. (F.F. Bruce, quoted in O’Brien, p. 136)

And we need to see how God loves and accepts us in Jesus.

If we can see with our hearts the value that God places on us it will change our self-image. It will give us both a confidence and humility. Confidence that tells us we are more than the labels the world assigns to us. Humility that recognizes the best things about us come not from ourselves but from the grace of God.

We are not the sum total of our accomplishments or our failures. We are a blood-bought inheritance for God in Jesus Christ.

III. Then, third and finally, we should pray for the heart-sight to see God’s power for us. The end of Verse 19:

18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know…19his incomparably great power for us who believe.

We need to be aware of God’s power for us. Paul calls it “incomparably great” power.

That’s great! No comparison. You can’t beat incomparable.

In the rest of the verse Paul describes God’s power as the “working of his mighty strength.” Power. Mighty. Strength. These are some forceful words, manly words. Every bit of power in the universe belongs to God.

And where is that power at work? “In us.” In the saints. In the ones God has chosen and adopted and redeemed. In those who believe in Him.

As a church, as individual Christians, we need to know the power that God has available for us.

Paul gets so excited about this, he can’t stop talking about it. The rest of the prayer (it’s all one long Greek sentence) to the end of 23, is an elaboration and celebration of God’s incomparably great power.

How powerful is this power at work in those who believe?

Powerful enough to raise Jesus from the dead! (v.20)

Powerful enough to exalt Jesus to the place of highest honor in the universe, the right hand of God! (v. 20)

Powerful enough to put Jesus over (far above) all other powers! (v.21)

Powerful enough to put Jesus over all other titles in this world and the next! (v.21)

Powerful enough to make everything a footstool for Jesus’ feet! (v.22)

Powerful enough to make Jesus Head of the church, and fill it with Himself so that it could be called His fullness! (v. 23)

Powerful enough so that it could be said with truth that He fills everything in every way, ruling all things by the power of his presence and blessing the church with every spiritual blessing imaginable and unimaginable (by our puny minds)!

Incomparably powerful.

And at work...where?

In us who believe. (Mitchell)

Everything falls under the authority of Jesus. Everything! All history, all human beings, all demonic powers, disease, disability, all nature—weather, hurricanes, lightning bolts, tornadoes, volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, global warming—all businesses and industry, healthcare, sports, NFL kickoff, inventions, media, Internet, military might, governments, presidents, kings, chiefs, religions, universities, solar systems, stars, galaxies, molecules, atoms, subatomic particles, and ten thousand things no man has ever yet discovered. Jesus is now head over them all. Conscious, active, authoritative Ruler.

Those who are with us are more than those who are with them. Jesus is greater than any other power in this world! Far, far greater. Incomparably greater.

We need to have heart-sight into this power because when we see it, it will shape who we are. When our hearts can see that God can do anything, then we will be prepared to do anything He says. We will take Him at His word and obey.

When we can see the hope that God has called us to, the way He loves and treasures us, and the incomparably great power that He possesses, then we will be utterly secure in our identity as His followers. We will have the foundation to build our lives with Him.

Starting Point
So, application. What are we supposed to do with this? Like I said, this is foundational to knowing who we are in Jesus. In order to grow in your relationship with Jesus, you need to first of all be secure in His love.

We are going to be doing a series of workshops go deeper into the topics of this series. And the first one we are going to be calling “Starting Point.” This is the class I have been doing for those interested in membership here at Hope Church. At one time it was called the New Member’s class, more recently it’s been called the “Pastor’s Class.”

One point of this gathering is to talk about why we do what we do the way we do it here at Hope. If you are new to our church, or you are considering becoming a member, I’d encourage you to sign up.

But I also think it would be good for everybody in our church to participate in this class. I’m calling it Starting Point now because we are going to spend some time focusing on what it means to have a relationship with Jesus. We’re going to spend some time making sure that we can all tell the story of God’s love in our lives.

And I think that’s something we all need. To make sure that the eyes of our hearts are opened to the reality of what God has done for us. To make sure we have not become so familiar with the story that we’ve stopped noticing.

There’s a sign-up table in the back. The Beyond Sunday Morning workshops will begin October13. But the Starting Point class will be the end of this month: Sept. 22 and 29 at 1:00 in the afternoon. I encourage you to sign up.