Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Praying for Overflowing Love

Today, as we gather together as Christ's people to pray corporately, we consider Paul's prayer as found in Philippians 1:9-11:
"And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."
Here are some questions to consider as we unpack this glorious prayer:

1. WHY would Paul make praying for love for these Philippian believers a priority?
  • Hint: there are hints of disunity that are affecting gospel ministry there (cf. 4:2; cf. Eph. 3:12-4:6).

2.  WHAT kind of imagery is Paul evoking of their love "abounding more and more"?

3.  WHAT kind of "love" is Paul praying for here? 
  • Hint: notice the two qualifiers he attaches to love

4.  WHAT are the results of an ever-increasing and abounding love?
  • Notice the unfolding and interconnecting logic Paul uses in vv.10-11 (like a cascading waterfall).

For a great picture of what "love" looks like, see 2:5-8, unpacking what exactly Paul means by being comforted by "love" in 2:1. Amazingly, as we reflect upon the true of God for us in Christ, the Spirit sheds abroad in our heart this love, which begins to pour out of our lives and into the lives of others. This is why 2:5-11 is central to Philippians, as is Paul's great desire for him (and by extension his hearers) to "know" Christ more truly, fully, and deeply. 

WHAT might it look like in our lives if God caused our love at GCC to abound more and more?

In Christ, and for His glory to the ends of the earth, through His church,
pastor ryan

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Prayer and Spiritual Warfare: Evangelism

This week, as we gather together to pray as God's people for the advance of God's kingdom, we look at the final verses of Paul's treatise on spiritual prayer as found in Ephesians 6:
"Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I  may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak." (vv.18-20)
The Scriptures clearly teach us that God's purpose for His people, that is, His charter for His church, is that they make it their "business" (and "busyness") to be about making disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20) for the sake of His glory (Eph. 1:6,12, 14) in Christ (1:10). 

To guarantee this, the Father has put all things under the feet of His resurrected and ascended Son, who is given as Head over His church (1:21-22), that His greatness and fulness will fill all things in every way (1:23).

Furthermore, the risen and ascended King of kings generously doles out His gifts to His church, equipping her to accomplish the ministry entrusted to her, namely the building up and furtherance of Christ's body and reign to the ends of the earth (4:7-12, 16).

But nowhere does God promise us that just because this mission will be accomplished, that this mission will be easy or without opposition (Eph. 6:10-12). Yes, Jesus promised that He will inexorably build His church (Matt. 16:18). But in that very promise He tells us that the forces of Hell will be warring to impede and retard and resist the advance of Christ's reign to the ends of the earth.

In this great battle we have been enlisted as soldiers into (cf. 2 Tim. 2:3-4), it is not enough that we seek only stay alive; we have been divinely sent on a rescue mission. And thus, the armory Christ entrusts to us (6:10-18) is not only for the safety of the church, it is also (and especially) for the salvation of the lost. 

As Paul teaches in Ephesians, the sword of the Spirit (that is, the Word of God) is exceedingly powerful as the means by which the Spirit (6:17) will not only protect us, but will also save those whom we are called to reach out to (cf. 1:13).

However, Paul would have us remember that just as powerful - and just as necessary - for effective evangelism is the weapon that John Bunyan refers to as "All-Prayer." Simply put, the armor of God, including the sword of the Spirit in evangelism, is useless apart from prayer.

Paul knew this. And so he asks the believers in Ephesus to pray for their fellow soldiers doing evangelism, and to especially to pray for him as the apostle whom God had commissioned to reach the Gentiles with the saving gospel of Christ. 

As astounding as it may seem to us, Paul - like us - was often tempted to remain silent with the gospel. Struggling with the fear of man and the desire to be accepted, he knew that things would be far less uncomfortable for him if he just didn't talk so much about Jesus (remember, he was writing this letter from a prison cell, to which he was incarcerated for preaching the gospel). He knew he would not be mocked or rejected if he didn't harp so much on the exclusivity of the gospel. Or the universality of the depravity of mankind. Or the inability of sinners to merit salvation through good works. 

Since the gospel has always been - and will always be - offensive to sinners (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-31), we must be intentional to pray for each other when it comes to the effective and consistent witness and proclamation of the gospel to our families, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even enemies.

As we learned in our study of the book of Acts, for evangelism to be truly effective, our sovereign Triune God must sovereignly open the following:
  1. Doors of opportunity to present the gospel
  2. Our mouths to unashamedly proclaim the gospel
  3. Our hearers' hearts to receive the gospel
Thankfully, we have the omnipotence of God Almighty on our side. None of these things, which are seemingly impossible obstacles to us, are obstacles to Him. And thus we need not fear any of them.

But we must remember that the God of ends is the God of means. And the means by which God opens doors and mouths and hearts is the faithful and fervent prayers of His people.

And so, brothers and sisters, let us pray for each other in this regard: let us pray for opportunities; let us pray for courage; and let us pray for conversions as we proclaim Christ's unsearchable riches to the ends of the earth (3:8).

Beloved, we are in a cosmic battle for the eternal souls of people. Let us never forget that, in the words of John Piper, "We will not know what prayer is for, until we know that life is war."

In Christ and for His glory to the ends of the earth, through His church,
pastor ryan

* It may be quite fruitful for us to be specific in our prayer requests. I think of a brother who sent a text to me on Monday asking for prayer for (the names of) two JW's he met, and who are coming back on Saturday. Knowing these details helps me to pray for open doors, open hearts, and open mouths. Share the names and circumstances of those whom God has placed in your life and upon your heart, that your fellow soldiers may pray Ephesians 6:19-20 for you.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Prayer and Spiritual Warfare, Pt. 2

As we meet again to pray corporately as a church this week, we return to Paul's words in Ephesians 6:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
 Today, we will focus v.18b, where Paul emphasizes the absolute necessity of "making supplication for all the saints." Simply put, spiritual warfare is a corporate endeavor. 

The first thing we note is the preface Paul attaches, namely the vital importance of "keeping alert with all perseverance" when it comes to praying for our fellow brothers and sisters who have been enlisted into this ferocious battle.

It would seem that the reason these words were inspired is because of our natural tendency to focus our prayers and supplications on ourselves and our own trials and circumstances. 

In the previous sentence, we are told we must be praying in the Spirit at "all" times, with "all" prayer and supplication. Certainly "all" times and "all kinds" of prayers* extends beyond our own lives and cares into the concentric circles of the lives of those around us, and even further into the lives of others in our congregation.

And so, "to this end", that is, praying for our fellow brothers and sisters in our midst, we must be on guard and intentional. Furthermore, we must cultivate perseverance in this important spiritual discipline of praying for others.

  • What are some ways we can corporately and practically "keep alert" when it comes to praying for our fellow soldiers? 
Perhaps one of the best ways is simply to regularly attend and participate in the weekly corporate prayer meeting at our local church, where individualism is virtually impossible. 

Another great opportunity is to intentionally plan to gather with other Christians to pray with and for them. A great start is in making it a priority to be part of one of the community groups, where an integral part of 'community' is praying for one another. Of course this can play itself out in regular gatherings with other Christians throughout the week.

A great practice I and my family have sought to employ is to make sure that before our guests leave, we ask them how we can be praying for them....and then pray for them right then and there. 
  • And so, when you get together with other Christians, make time to talk about how you can pray for each other. Just as importantly, make time to actually pray for one another (perhaps one of the greatest sins in cultural Christianity is the lie when we flippantly tell others, "I'm praying for you" when we're not or don't). 

Praying for others often requires being with others. How can others be accurately praying for me if they don't know how they can be praying for me? 

When we look at the various components of the Christian's 'complete' armor, we notice that there is not any armor for our backs that Paul lists. Perhaps that is why he emphasizes at the end of this section the vital necessity of being together, of 'having each other's back.' 

When the Romans would assemble their soldiers for war, their armor was designed ultimately to be used as a company. The 'interlocking' shield of the soldier was not only for his own protection, but was designed to protect his comrades on his right and his left as well. They were trained to work in unison to prevent the enemy from breaching their lines and forcing hand to hand combat, something which would drastically impair their odds of victory. As effective predators seek to isolate their prey from the herd, so Satan works diligently to keep Christians isolated from the church, and especially church prayer meetings.

Brothers and sisters, we actually need one another. We actually need to be with one another. And we actually need to be praying together** and for one another.

Let me encourage you all to make it a priority to come out to the weekly prayer meetings. Come, and let us know how we can be praying for you as your fellow-soldiers in Christ. Come, and pray for those around you. Come, join us as we pray for a different country and church every week.  You'll be surprised how often you find yourself praying for others during the week (conversely, you'll be surprised how rarely you pray for others you don't see regularly). 

I know it is costly to do so. But I would posit for your consideration just how costly it is to not do so. 

Grace Community, may the world see that we as Christ's people are a praying people!

In Christ, and for His great glory to the ends of the earth, through the church,
pastor ryan




* The Greek can also by translated this way ("all kinds" of prayers...). One kind of prayer might be for ourselves; another for their close associations; yet others for people such as Paul (v.19).

** Westerns often 'individualize' Ephesians 6. But all the verbs are plural, and so Paul has in view here a church praying these kinds of things together.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Prayer and Spiritual Warfare

This week, as we gather together for prayer, we will consider Paul's words in Ephesians 6:10-18:
Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
Tragically, when many Christians talk about "spiritual warfare," prayer is rarely in the conversation. 

Though it is true that Jesus Himself regularly rebuked and cast out demons (e.g. Mark 1:23-27, 34, 39, etc.), and that He gave authority to the twelve apostles (Mark 3:14-15*), we must be careful to not make the narrative sections of the Bible normative. 

Unfortunately, many well-intentioned but poorly-informed Christians read a passage like Mark 3:14-15 or Luke 9:1-3 and believe that we too have been commissioned by Christ with power and authority over all demons and diseases, even though there are zero commands for 'non-apostles' in the NT letters to go around rebuking, binding, and casting out demons.

Rather, we find ourselves reading things like, "Resist [the devil], firm in the faith" (1 Peter 5:9, my translation). Or here in Ephesians 6, the clearest passage in the NT letters, we are called to "put on" and "take up" the whole armor of God.

Rather than providing an exposition of each accoutrement of armor, it will suffice for us simply to sum up Paul's teaching by saying that we need to apply the gospel - in all of its glorious aspects - to our lives. 

In Ephesians 4:24, we "put on" the new man by having the Spirit renew our minds.** Here, we "put on" the gospel in and by "praying in the Spirit."***

In other words, just as we can't live the Christian life without the Spirit's power, neither can we do 'spiritual' warfare without the Spirit's presence.

But what does it mean to pray "in the Spirit"? It unlikely refers to praying in tongues. More likely, it has to do with praying "in the sphere" of the Spirit.*** That is, we pray in His neighborhood. And His neighborhood is simply the gospel of Christ. This fits the context here, as well as other passages such as 3:5-6, where the Spirit enables us to "get" the riches of the gospel that God has for us in Christ (cf. the "Spirit who reveals" in 1:17).

To be mindful of Christ and to be full of the gospel (cf. 5:18) is to be "in the Spirit."****

So let's never separate spiritual warfare from the Spirit, whose weapon to fight against Satan and his foes is "the Word of God." As we pray the gospel, we put a sword in His sovereign hands, which protects us from all of Satan and his deceitful schemes.

This is New Testament spiritual warfare. It's all about the gospel of Christ. And it's all about prayer. 

So let's pray for the Spirit to apply the gospel to our hearts (cf. 3:16-17) and minds (cf. 4:23), so that we might be equipped and empowered to "stand strong in this evil day."

Oh how we need to "get" the gospel. Let's pray that the Spirit would help us really get it. Otherwise we are easy pickings for the adversary of our souls.

In Christ, and for His glory to the ends of the earth,
pastor ryan



* Mark 3:14-15 - "And [Jesus] appointed twelve (whom He also named apostles) so that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons." (my translation)

** The ESV translation is a good literal translation, but seems to miss Paul's Pneumatology in Ephesians. The Spirit is central to the Christian life, from regeneration (2:5) to sealing (1:13-14). He maintains our unity (4:3), empowers our obedience (5:18), and makes us long for the day of redemption (4:30). In 4:24, He is the One who renews our mind, enlightening the eyes of our hearts to better know God and His ways (cf. 1:17-18). 

*** Unfortunately, the NIV translates the participle "praying" as if it were a new command or imperative ("And pray in the Spirit"). Though possible, it is more likely that this participle is the means by which the Christian puts on the whole armor of God enumerated by Paul in the previous verses ("Put on...take up...by praying...").

**** For Greek nerds, I take this the dative preposition "in" to be a dative of sphere.

***** The participle here can be the result. That is, when we saturate our services with the gospel, the congregation (the verb is plural) is "filled in/with the Spirit." This is Graham Cole's exegetical conclusion in his "He who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit." I take it as both/and. When we are filled with the Spirit, we sing and give thanks. But singing and giving thanks and having the gospel saturate our service provides a means of being filled collectively with the Spirit. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Praying to be Filled with Christ's Love

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend  with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:14-19)
There are few prayers that are more sweepingly important than this one. This is because* it is the very thing Paul prays for immediately after telling us that God's eternal purpose to put His wisdom and glory on display is accomplished through the church (3:10-11; cf. 1:10).

The question is, "What kind of church displays God's wisdom and glory?" 

The answer is simply this: "a church that is filled with the love of Christ." Which is why Paul prays these words in Ephesians 3.

A couple of things to note, which will hopefully stoke fervent prayer for the Spirit to fill us with Christ's love:

(1) This love is expressed in unity, which is one of the main themes in Ephesians. The Father of v.14 is the Father of "all" His children in heaven and earth. All in Christ are in the same family. The gasoline that fuels its existence is Christ's love.

(2) That our confidence of God's pouring out His love by the Spirit is rooted in and according to "the riches of His glory." In other words, there is no shortage, for God's glory is inexhaustible.

(3) That the ultimate expression of the Spirit's power in the life of a Christian is "Christ dwelling in our hearts through faith." This is what a "Spirit-filled" Christian looks like, and is even more miraculous than so many of the signs and wonders many seek after.

(4) That we need the Spirit to strengthen us not merely as individuals, but as a church, to "co-comprehend" what is this immeasurable gift Christ has for those who ask.

(5) This love is not "learned" by study; rather, it is comprehended by the Spirit's revelation. Thus, this is something we must ask for (cf. 1:17; 3:5).

(6) To be filled with all the fullness of God is to be filled with the love of Christ. This is what a truly mature Christian and church looks like.

(7) It is through Spirit-filled - and thus love-of-Christ-filled - Christians that Christ is "filling" the world with His glory (cf. 1:23; 3:21).

As we are filled with the Spirit, and His first-fruit of love (cf. Gal. 5:25), we are enabled and empowered (cf. 1:19) to walk in a manner worthy of Christ's call (4:1-6:9; cf. 1:18).

This is the kind of church that brings the Father glory through Christ. So let us pray this prayer today, for we have access to the Father's throne of grace through our faith in Christ (3:12).

In Christ, and for His glory through His church,
pastor ryan


* Note the conjunction ("For this reason") in v.14, which links Paul's train of thought in this section to the previous section.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Praying to See our Riches in Christ

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 your eyes 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 in 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 fulness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:15-23)
Last week, we saw the absolute necessity of having the Spirit of God "enlighten the eyes of our hearts" so that we might come to a greater realization of, and appreciation for, "the knowledge of God." That is, if we really want to know God better, we need to have our eyes increasingly opened by the Spirit; as this happens, our hearts - which God has created to be the center of our passions and volition, will pant after and live for God and His glory.

As the Spirit opens the eyes of the hearts of the Ephesian believers, Paul prays that they would "see" three things. As they do, their hearts, and thus subsequently their "walk,"* will be radically and dynamically transformed.

As we look at them, let us endeavor to pray for these very things for others in our church and spheres of influence.

First, we ought to pray that we might "know" what is the hope to which the Father has called us in Christ. Again, "know" means more than an intellectual 'fact' that we acquire and store up in our brain. We might liken the connotation here to a kind of assurance - a settled disposition of the heart.
  • How differently would we live if we were absolutely and resolutely convinced and continually aware that for eternity of eternities we will forever abide in the very presence of Christ our King!!

The Good News of the gospel is not less than having our sins forgiven in Christ. But there is so much more to the gospel than just the glories of Christ's atonement!! The epistles** of the NT are absolutely saturated with this kind of forward-looking hope that all of God's saints will forever enjoy in His new heaven and new earth. 

  • Pray that the age to come would be a reality in the hearts of your brothers and sisters at GCC. I guarantee that their lives will not be the same (e.g. think of how differently we will see our treasures on earth [cf. Matt. 6:19-20, 33]).

Second, and I believe closely related to the first, we are to pray that we as God's people might realize "what is the wealth of the glory of His inheritance in the saints".*** 

In ancient cultures, inheritance was everything. One's future inheritance determined their earthly destiny. In a much greater way, teaches Paul, the believer's "knowledge" of the certainty of their inheritance - one of "glory" and thus true "riches" - ought to transform how they live here on earth as well. 
  • Imagine two men are hired to a one-year contract on an assembly line making widgets. Imagine that to the first man, he is told at the end of the year he will receive the equivalent salary to one who made minimum wage. Then imagine the second man is promised that at the end of the year, he will be paid out ten million dollars. Then try to imagine how each will work that year. The "knowledge" of the second man's "glorious inheritance" that awaits him in the future will enable him to view - and thus carry out - his tedious, monotonous, and 'inglorious' work differently than the other man.****

Oh for the Spirit to open the eyes of our hearts to "see" that the inheritance the Lord has for us (literally "in us") is "glorious"! In fact, our inheritance is glory. Beloved, we will forever bask in the glory of Christ for ages of ages. No "riches" in this age can compare to this. But we need the eyes of our hearts to see it and to feel it.

  • Pray for God to remind us that all God promises us in the future will be defined by glory (e.g. "glorified" joy in 1 Pet. 1:8).*****

Third, Paul prays that believers might see the great treasure they have now. The same Spirit that gives us hope for the future also grants us power for the present.

Despite what many wrongly believe, this 'power' is not granted to us to cast out demons or bind Satan, nor does it seem that the Spirit is given for the church to put on shows of "signs and wonders." Ultimately, in light of the theology of Ephesians, as well as the Great Commission of Jesus (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8), it seems that the Spirit is especially given to God's people to accomplish God's mission, namely the building of Christ's church (1:22-23; 3:9-11; 4:11-16) in the face of demonic opposition (cf. 6:10-20). This happens both as the church preaches the unsearchable riches of Christ to others (cf. 3:7-9), and as she walks together in unity and obedience (4:1-6:9).

God has given His people the power to carry out His commission. But, like the man who lives like a beggar because he has forgotten the riches his father deposited into his bank account, we as Christians all too often live powerless and fruitless lives because we all too often forget that the very power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in us who believe.******

  • Pray that the Spirit would open our eyes to see this vast power at our disposal to live holy and evangelistically powerful lives.

As long as this study is, much (much!) more could have been written. For those who would like to study this prayer out more fully, I heartily recommend the following sermons preached by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

Lord, in Your mercy visit Your people this week as we pray for Your blessing on us.

In Christ, and for His glory to the ends of the earth, through His church,
pastor ryan


* This is a key theme in the second half of the letter, where chapters 4-6 flesh out and apply the doctrine Paul sets forth in chapters 1-3. Simply put, what we believe affects how we live.

** For example, read 1 Peter 1:3-12, and see how this "hope" transforms our "walk," as elucidated in the following verses. Or, see the classic chapter on eschatological hope in Romans 8, and how it shapes how we suffer in this life (cf. Rom. 5:3-5). In fact, the entire book of Revelation is meant to instill this hope of our eternal future into the hearts of God's suffering saints.

*** This is a literal translation of the original Greek.

**** This is the same line of argument Paul uses to motivate slaves to work "as to the Lord" in Colossians 3:22-25, "knowing" that from the Lord Himself, they will receive "the inheritance." Also, this illustration is borrowed from Timothy Keller's "Gospel for Life" video series.

***** The participle is in the perfect tense, meaning that the joy we experience now is defined by glory, but one day in the future, it will be fully realized and eternally enjoyed and celebrated.

****** The present participle could be rendered "to us as we are believing", hinting at the notion that this "power" of the Spirit is unleashed as we believe (cf. Rom. 1:16).

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Praying to be Healed of Spiritual Myopia

This week as we gather together to pray together with and as God's people, we continue our study through Paul's prayer in Ephesians 1:
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 your eyes 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 in 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 fulness of Him who fills all in all.
Last time, we noted that the gist of Paul's prayer for these believers is that the Spirit would "reveal" to them a greater and growing "knowledge of God."

Prerequisite to this, says Paul, is the necessity of "having the eyes of our hearts enlightened." 

Of course, at regeneration, this is exactly what the Spirit did to us and for us. Before this, we were spiritually blind (2 Cor. 4:4), and as Paul will say in the next chapter, spiritually dead in - and because of - our willful rebellions and sins against God (2:1). The "eyes of our hearts" were set on the things below, and thus we, with all of our "hearts," gladly followed the course of this fallen world; we willingly followed the god of this evil age; and thus we passionately pursued what the culture and commercials said we should. 

But when we were sovereignly "born again from above" by the Spirit, the "eyes" of our hearts were enlightened.* In Paul's words elsewhere, we were made a "new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17), which includes "seeing" people and things differently (5:16; cf. Col. 3:1-2).

However, the Greek employed by Paul also teaches us that as necessary as this initial 'conversion' of the 'eyes of our heart' is, we also need to have our eyes progressively enlightened by the Spirit if we are to know our God rightly and live in His world accordingly.

Simply put, we need more of the Spirit's "eyes" to see things as they truly are. The natural person - that is, the unregenerate, worldly person devoid of the Spirit of God - sees things with 'natural' eyes, that is, a carnal and worldly perspective (see esp. 1 Cor. 2:6-16). And, as Jesus says, our "eyes" - how we see things - determine our desires and passions and therefore what we spend our time looking at (Matt. 6:22-23).

Our hearts naturally seek after and fall in love with whatever we set our eyes on. And so Paul prays that God would enlighten our 'heartly' eyes and remove the glaucoma that muddies and distorts our perspective. We need the sun of the Spirit to burn away the darkness that veils us from seeing the world as God would have us, for how we use our time, our talents, or our treasure is always in relation to what we set the eyes of our hearts on. 

As Paul makes clear in the rest of the letter, believers need to see that the world that so allures their hearts is not their friend, but rather a fierce and ruthless foe that wants us to waste our lives here by focusing our eyes on things below (cf. Col. 3:1-4). The world (i.e. this fallen "age") is the primary tool Satan uses to blind the eyes of people's hearts from seeing the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). He wants us to live as spiritual myopics; to live with a temporal focus; to live with such a short-sightedness that renders us no different from the world we are called to be set apart from (cf. Matt. 5:13-16).

And so we, like the believers in Ephesus, need "eyes" to see aright if we are to be of any earthly good in our short time here.

It is alleged that the famous American evangelist D.L. Moody once quipped that some believers could be so spiritually minded that they ended up being of no earthly good. According to Paul's prayer in Ephesians 1, nothing could be further from the truth! The only way we who are believers will be of any earthly use is to have our eyes progressively enlightened, and our hearts subsequently enflamed, by the beauty of God in the face of Jesus Christ as seen in the glorious gospel of grace. Only the Spirit of God can do this, and so let us ask Him to.

Holy Spirit, please, we beg You, open the eyes of our hearts! For the sake of Jesus and His church, and thus the glory of the Father, please open the eyes of our hearts! Like Elisha's servant**, open our eyes to see the world through Your eyes, for if we do not, we will not live any differently from the people we want You to draw to King Jesus.

Next week, we will look at the three concrete examples Paul lists of what it will look like for us to have the eyes of our hearts enlightened by the Spirit.

In Christ, and for the sake of His glory in the church,
pastor ryan



* The NET translates the perfect participle this way - that is, emphasizing more of the initial transformation of our heart, whereas other translations, like the NIV, emphasize more the ongoing transformation - enlightening - of our hearts to help us "see" things from God's perspective.

** See the account in 2 Kings 6, especially verse 17.