Hopeful Prayer

October 29, 2017 sermon
By John Maiden, Associate Pastor

Ephesians 1:15-23

In Ephesians 1, we see as Christians, we have incredible blessings because of our position in Christ. Paul’s prayer for the church is that we don’t miss any of it – but that we may fully understand these blessings through our experience and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul prays we may know God and know His blessings.

1. Paul prays that the church may truly know God. Paul prays for our spiritual illumination to know God. We need God’s help to know Him and understand what we have been given in Christ. Anyone can know facts about God (head knowledge), but Paul’s prayer is that we may know by personal and intimate experiences with Him (heart knowledge). Paul reminds the church that knowing God means we ALREADY possess every blessing in Christ – right now and into eternity – nothing else needs to be added. (2 Peter 1:3)

2. Paul prays that the church may know the blessings found in knowing God.  Paul wants us to grasp and experience these life changing truths:

  • The Hope of His Calling: As Christians we live knowing that life is not meaningless. We have a hope for our lives now and a future hope because we know where we are headed! It is this future hope that gives us hope for today!
  • God’s Inheritance: We are to know that WE are God’s inheritance, that is: You and Me! God’s love says you are part of my family – what is mine is yours. You are a co-heir with my Son, Jesus. Our identity is found in Him.
  • God’s Power: Don’t settle for your salvation being a rescue, but lean into the truth that those who believe in Jesus, get his power! (Yes, there is power in the blood!)
    a. Christ resurrection: We can trust God’s power is at work because it defeated death!
    b. God’s power is seen in Christ rule: There is only One who rules over everything and has all things under his feet, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. We are called to trust in the power of God.
    c. Christ Headship: Christ is head of the church which is His body and he is filling it!

In faith, may we know ALL that we already possess and live inspired and purpose-filled lives telling others of the saving power of Jesus Christ! We have what everyone is searching for!

Discussion Questions

  1. What is a head knowledge fact you know about God?
  2. What are some heart knowledge experiences you know about God? How have these experiences increased your understanding of the blessings you have in Christ?
  3. What blessing in Christ may you need to reclaim today? Let your small group encourage you in whatever it is – it is readily available!
  4. John Maiden said, “We live striving for that day,” that day is eternity with Christ. How does this future hope give us hope in our everyday lives?
  5. How can we train ourselves to rely on God’s power rather than on ourselves?
  6. Paul prayed for Ephesus and the church. Who are you praying for today to impact a “hope-filled” tomorrow?

Introduction

Good Morning on this beautiful fall morning. I don’t know about you, but I just love the fall. Cool weather, leaves changing, world series, football, truck or treats. Although I think my son is over those things as we have been sure to hit up about everyone in the Raleigh area. My name is John Maiden, and I am the Associate Minister here at Perry Creek. This fall we are going through the first three chapters of Ephesians, and it has been such a blessing so far. If you have been with us the past three weeks, you know that we have spent three weeks speaking about all the blessings that we have received in Christ. This week we are going to be in the following section. If you have a Bible, please turn with me to Ephesians 1:15-23.

William Randolph Hearst was a multi-billionaire who lived in the mid 1800s to the mid 1900s. He was known for building the biggest newspaper chain and also served as a Congressman in the House of Representatives. Warren Wiersbe (say that three times fast) tells an interesting story about this man. Once day Hearst was reading and came across an extremely valuable piece of art that he decided that he had to have. I mean what else is he going to do with his billions of dollars? He then ordered his agent to search the world for this piece of art. Literally. After many months of searching art galleries around the world, he never found it. The agent then discovered why he had not been able to find this expensive piece of art all over the world. It was stored in one of William Hearst warehouses for years. He had the piece of art the whole time!

In this passage, Paul has a longing for the church. He wants them to know to the fullest the blessings they already have in Christ and to live accordingly. We don’t have to go searching for these blessings. We do not have to do something else to receive the blessings of Christ. If you are in Christ, we have them. May these truth take root in our hearts today. Paul says this:

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
– Ephesians 1:15-23

As you can see in starting this passage, Paul says “For this reason.” Paul is referring to the previous part of his letter, which we have gone over in the past three weeks – all the blessings we have in Christ. Now that we have just seen all of the blessings that we have received in Christ. Paul then enters into one of the most beautiful and hopeful prayers in Scripture. He is now praying that we will fully grasp and know these blessings personally and use them in our everyday lives and remind us of our future glory.

Often in our prayers, we like to thank God for all the blessings that he has given us. I was talking to a member this week about how Ephesians has put a completely different perspective on that prayer. Now he has specific blessings that he can praise God for. This week we are even going to get more practical, as we can learn a prayer that asks God to help us understand and grasp these blessings.

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
– Ephesians 1:15-16

Before Paul turns to his specific prayer for the church, his expresses his thankfulness for the church. Paul expresses that he is thankful for the church for two reasons. Their “Faith in the Lord Jesus” and their “Love towards all the saint”. Here is a church that is living out their Christianity. Here we see Paul giving a great summary of what it means to be a Christian. As the church, we have faith in Jesus as Lord and love for each other.

Which is his prayer for the church? My hope for this prayer is that this prayer may be a part of your everyday lives. Memorize it. Pray it. May it remind us of what we have to help us in this life.

Paul prays that the church may truly know God

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him. Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened
– Ephesians 1:17-18

Paul is saying that he longs for the church to “know” God. There are three phrases Paul prays for so that the church may know God:

  1. Spirit of wisdom
  2. Revelation
  3. Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened

These three phrases are referring to the idea of illumination. We need God’s help to know Him and understand what we have been given in Christ.

“Eyes of your hearts enlightened” – Obviously, Paul is not praying about our literal eyes and heart, but is praying that God will give us spiritual eyes to know God fully and all his blessings. We can think of the heart as being the core of a person. Paul is asking that the core of us is enlightened to who God is. This is much more than just a head knowledge about God. This is very much a knowledge of God that comes through experience and leads us to a personal relationship with Him.

When I was in seminary, it was very easy for me to gain a lot of head knowledge as I looked at who God is. How loving He is. How powerful He is. But if that becomes just a head knowledge and doesn’t move to my heart, it is worthless. But this is not what Paul is talking about here. He is talking about how he hopes that we know God in an intimate and personal way. The Pharisees knew God also, but their hearts were far from him. They did not have a relationship with him.

What does it mean to know God personally? We can commune with God throughout our day. It is one thing to have a head knowledge that God helps me in fighting sin, but when temptations come and I can actually go to him and ask for help. When I experience a tragedy, it is one thing to have we head knowledge that God is a God of comfort. But when I rely on him to come and comfort me that is what it means to have a personal relationship with Him. We need to pray that we may not be a church that gains knowledge about God, but that we allow that knowledge to become real to us in a personal and intimate way.

To know God and have a personal relationship with him is to also have all the blessings of God. What is amazing about this passage is that Paul reminds the church that to know God is to already possess all the blessing in Christ.

Remember Hearst at the beginning illustration? We don’t have to search any longer. As people who have already put their faith in Jesus, to know God means who have all that we need in Him, now in our present lives and in the future for all of eternity.

So often even as true Christians, we fall under the trap that Christianity is about knowing God plus something else. How often do we see that it is “Jesus + works?” “Yes, I believe that you forgive me but I really missed up so I need to work hard to earn back your love.” Or maybe we think it is “Jesus + some ritual?”

I had a group of people when I was in college that went door to door telling people that just becoming a follower of Christ was not enough to possess all that God has to offer. You then needed to experience another supernatural act to experience the full blessings of God. This is just simply not true. It is not “God +” to gain salvation or “God +” to live this life. God’s word tells us “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, though the true knowledge of Him.” If we truly know God, we have been given all of his blessings and all that we need to live this life now and for all eternity.

Do you need more strength for today? God’s strength is readily available. Do you need rest today for trying to earn favor with God? Jesus says come to me all weary and I will give you rest. We have all we need in Christ.

Paul prays that the church may know the blessings found in knowing God

having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe
– Ephesians 1:18-19

Paul prays that we may know:

  1. The Hope of God’s Calling
  2. God’s Inheritance
  3. God’s Power

I want to stop here. These blessings that Paul prays that we grasp by the help of the Holy Spirit are life changing truths.

 

1. The Hope of His Calling

One of the blessings that Paul prays for the church to experience is the hope which he has called us. This hope of His calling has a:

  • Past – Chosen before the foundation of the word to be in Christ. We were chosen to be adopted into God’s family.
  • Present – Redeemed, forgiven, you have the Spirit, and you are called to live holy lives.
  • Future – As a follower of Christ, we have a future hope! One day we will be brought into the eternal kingdom of God.

Sarah and I were watching a show this week. One of the character’s in the show made a comment that sadly is many people’s belief today. The character was a patient in a hospital that was dying of cancer. His response to why this happened to him and that there was no God was “It’s easier to think it’s all random and when it’s over, its just over.”

What a sad and hopeless way to live. But as believers, we know that life is not meaningless. We have a hope for our lives now and a future hope. This is not all there is! One day we will be with Jesus for all of eternity. One day we will see Jesus face to face in all His glory! One day we will be brought into the eternal kingdom of God, where death will be no more. Where there will be no death, no hurt, no pain, no crying anymore. We will have eternal joy with Jesus, forever!

This future hope again gives us a present hope. We live knowing where we are headed and what is eternal. We live striving for that day that we will see God face to face and will be perfectly holy and blameless before Him. We have what everyone is searching for! Life is hard. In the pain that life often brings, we have the hope that all people are looking for.

The hymn “It Is Well” illustrates this. Horatio Spafford had just received the news that all four of his daughters were killed in a shipwreck. As he set sail on the same sea that took his daughters, he penned these words:

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.”

What enables somebody to say these words in such an awful tragedy? The hope of Christ. That is just one blessing! This is good stuff!

2. God’s inheritance

The inheritance here can be taken one of two ways. It is either referring to God’s inheritance, or it could be referring to our inheritance. Both are true in Scripture. We will receive a future inheritance in God’s eternal kingdom, but this passage here in talking about how we may know His inheritance.

What is His inheritance? Us! You! Me! We are God’s inheritance. Let that truth sink in. Because of what Jesus did by dying on the cross so that you and me could be forgiven, we are God’s inheritance.

We are a part of God’s family. You are a son or a daughter of the King and creator of the universe. Not because of anything I did or do, but because He loves me. You. Me. God looked at me saw the filth that my sin made me. God sees how messed up I am and how I mess up time and time again. He sees all my sin and all my failures – all my impure thoughts and selfish deeds. In the face of all that he says: “Beloved son, I love you.” I died for you. In Christ, all your sins are forgiven and you are MINE. Not only are you forgiven of your sin, but you are a part of my family. What is mine is yours. You are a co-heir with my Son, Jesus. If that doesn’t make you feel loved, I don’t know what will. If that doesn’t give you a new identity in life, I don’t know what will. Paul prays that we may know this inheritance. That we are God’s.

There is nothing like the moment that John Duke entered into the world for the first time. I was so overwhelmed with emotion and so unbelievably in love. He was my son. I remember feeling in the early days already feeling how I would do anything for him. He was my son. My son! These days I can’t wait to share with people a new video or picture of my son, because I am so in love and so proud of him. To think about the love I have for my son as a fallen human being, it’s an amazing. But then you look at God, who is our Father and who loves us with a perfect love. How amazing the love He has for me.

3. God’s Power

The third blessing that Paul wants to church to grasp is the power of God. This might even we considered the climax of the prayer, because as you see Paul expands on this last blessing for five verses.

and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
– Ephesians 1:19-23

“His power toward us” – those who believe in Jesus get his power. Wow! Again, it’s not we become a Christian, then you receive a second blessing later. Or you become a Christian, and then you do something and then receive this power. You Christian, have it, if you are a follower of Christ. You have all of God’s power! Brothers and sisters, this is life changing truth! Do you believe this truth? That we have available to us God’s power?

Paul describes this power in four different terms (this is where I always get nervous with a Greek scholar sitting on the front row):

  • Power (dunamis), where we get our word dynamite
  • Working (energeia)
  • Strength (kratos)
  • Might (ischus)

We have dynamite power, working power and a power of strength and might! Paul then expands on what this power. God’s power is seen greater in the resurrection of Jesus.

Christ resurrection: We are often tempted do doubt this power of God. Can God really help me? Can God really empower me to fight sin? Paul in our doubt points us to why we can trust that God’s power is at work. Christ resurrection screams his power. God’s power defeated death! His power raised Jesus from the dead!

God’s power is seen in Christ rule. Paul then goes on to say:

far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet
– Ephesians 1:21-22

Jesus’ rule is over all, including Satan and his demons! And Jesus’ rule is eternal!

Today in Ephesus, you can see among the ruins part of the remains of a statue of the Roman emperor Trajan. In this statue, you can see how Romans viewed their rulers. The remains of the Emperor Trajan’s foot on top of the world. This was to give the idea that Trajan was a god. As we look back at this today, it is almost as if Paul is speaking to this belief in his day. There is only who rules over everything and has all things under his feet, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.

There are two things that Jesus is described as having power over that no man can conquer: Death and evil. No matter how hard we try, we cannot avoid death. I read part of an article yesterday that was titled. “Want to Live Forever? Scientist are on the brink of a cure for death.” But the reality is, death cannot be defeated by man. Also, no matter how hard we try we cannot defeat evil. We are just mere humans who were born into sin. We cannot defeat evil and sin in and around us. But Jesus can and, in fact, as we have been reminded in this passage, he did!

This power that defeated death and evil is the same power that is given to us. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power living inside of us. We have God’s power to help us in our spiritual battle! Do we really believe this? Do we really believe that we have available to us the power of the eternal, living God? The power that raised Jesus from the dead? If we really believe this truth, it will change our lives! How often do we find ourselves trying to live this life in our own strength?

I love the story that David Platt gives in his book Radical. He tells us a story of a man named Raden. Raden was a man who had every reason to trust his own strength. Before he became a Christian, he was a fighter and was a ninja, who had learned jujitsu and other techniques on how to fight people. One day Raden was sharing the gospel in an unreached village, and the village witch doctor called him out to fight. Raden first thought was that he was going to use his many fighting skills to take this guy down. But as he went to go outside to fight him, God told Raden that He would do the fighting for him. So Raden pulled up a chair and sat down in front of the witch doctor and said “God would do the fighting for him.” Raden then describes what happened next. He said that the witch doctor attempted to speak, he began to gasp for air. A few minutes later the man fell over dead.

While this is an extreme example, the truth is the same for all of lives and in every circumstance. While our tendency is to use our own power in this life, we are called to trust in the power of God to help us. God’s power is available to us.

  • Power against evil: Jesus has defeated all evil powers – Satan, his demons, all evil powers. They have been defeated at the cross and we have been given God’s power to defeat them as well.
  • Power against sin: The battle of sin is very present in our lives. We all battle sin, and we need help. We can resist temptation! We can have victory over sin! Why? Because God empowers us to do so!
  • Power for life: Life is hard. There are disappointments, hurt, pain, that come not because of sin, but just because we live in a fallen and broken world. We live in what theologians like to call in between the times. God has available the power and strength that we need to live this life. I think Paul gives us a beautiful truth of this reality in Philippians 4. He said that he has learned to be able to be content in every circumstance that life can throw at Him. Why? Because of the strength, the power that God provides. Shipwrecked, beaten to the brink of death, imprisoned, and so on.
  • Power to save: Just as Jesus conquered the grave to save us, his power is available to all who will call on His name for salvation. If you are not some who as Paul said of the Ephesians put their faith in Christ, these blessings are not for you. But they can be today! May today be the day of salvation! May today be the day that you experience the blessings of salvation that only come through Jesus. We are called to tell others of the saving power of Jesus.

Christ Headship

And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
– Ephesians 1:22-23

God is head of the church which is His body and He is filling it! Meaning as one commentator says “He is completely over us and completely in us, our supreme Lord and supreme power.”

As the church, we have all of Christ which includes all of his power! Stand and pray this passage over the church:

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
– Ephesians 1:17-23