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I Keep Asking – Ephesians 1:15-19a

This sermon was preached on Sunday, October 3, 2010.

Ephesians Chapter 1: Following Jesus In A Spiritually Hostile World. Now this won’t be like last Sunday where we kind of, man, went all over the place. No x’s and o’s this week. [He chuckles.] About 95% of the time, I like to zero in on the text like a laser beam, and we’ll be doing that this week. Ephesians 1, starting at verse 15, it’s a portion about prayer. Would you stand with me, please, as we give honor to God’s Word? Ephesians 1:15: For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 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 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, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.

[Prayer] Father, thank You for your Word today. Thank you for the encouragement of Your Holy Spirit. Thank you for the prophetic word that was given today. I’m sure it spoke to many hearts. Lord, You are ours; we are Yours, and we love You so much. And we are ready to hear from you, ready to hear what You say to us through Your Word today. We ask for Your anointing, not just on Your servant to speak, but on our hearts to receive what You want to say to us. Please pray with me:   Heavenly Father, speak to my heart, change my life, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

As you can tell from the title, the three words that jump out at me from this text are the words: I keep asking. They’re in verse 17: I keep asking. I’m going to come back to that in a little while. I was going to talk about it up front. Last night, in bed, the sermon kind of got rearranged. I want to talk about what Paul is asking for here, and then we’ll come back to the concept that he keeps asking. I think it’s basically three things. Number 1, he’s asking, in verse 17, for a spirit of wisdom and revelation. He is praying that the Ephesian believers, through the Holy Spirit, will have wisdom and revelation. Number 2, 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 riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints. And then number 3, His incomparable great power for us who believe. He goes on to say that power is like the working of His mighty strength which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead. And next week, Lord willing, we will look at what that means and how great Christ is. Three things he asked for.

Now, we as Pentecostals, charismatics, tend to emphasize the power dimension, but notice the first thing he asks for is the spirit of wisdom and revelation. You know, power without wisdom is dangerous. There’s a reason we have hunter’s safety courses for young people who want to go into the woods with a gun. Power without wisdom is dangerous. And yes, I know, gifts of the Spirit are given as God wills, and sometimes we’ve seen people with spiritual power used of God, and they do really dumb things. And it tends to negate everything. And then we see people in the world, there are people in the world with natural wisdom. Wisdom is a good thing; the whole book of Proverbs is about getting wisdom. Make sure you have wisdom in life. It is so important. And I thought about this. You know, Jesus talked about sometimes the people of the world–in the parable of the shrewd manager [Luke 16:1-15]—people in the world have more shrewdness sometimes than the people of the Light, and they have natural wisdom. But this spirit of wisdom and revelation goes beyond natural wisdom, but it’s a good thing to have natural wisdom. Some people seem to have it and some people don’t. [Congregation laughs.] You know what I’m saying? Maybe there’s an area in everybody’s life where we lack wisdom but some people just don’t seem to get it, and that’s why we need a guide in life. Let me tell you, if you read this book [holds up his Bible], you will be wiser than you will be if you don’t read this book. Really. I’m not saying you’ll be the wisest person in the world, or you’ll be wiser than somebody else, but you’ll be wiser than you would be otherwise. Really! You know, Abraham Lincoln was not really a practicing Christian for nearly all of his life, but you know what? He was wise enough, he knew this book [holds up his Bible again]. He quoted it all the time, even though he didn’t go to church, and he said he wasn’t a Christian for most of his life, but he knew this book. There is a lot of wisdom here.

And you know, in life, when we face difficulty, “What should I do?” Sometimes people will come to me and say, “What does God say about this?”And I’ll tell them. And what God says is not what they were hoping God would say. [Some people chuckle.] And then sometimes someone will find a sheer verse somewhere and kind of twist it to negate everything else the Bible says, and you can deal with that. At least they are working from the Bible. But some people, you know, they haven’t read the Bible, they don’t know the Word, they’re not grounded, and they don’t know what to say. And it’s tough to compete with the pastor on Biblical knowledge, so sometimes I’ve heard people say, “Well, I believe God wants me to be happy,” meaning “I believe God wants me to do whatever I think I want to do, because that’s what makes me happy.” To which I would ask this question, “If God leaves us on our own, in our own wisdom, to live our lives and just wants us to be happy doing whatever we want to do, then why did Jesus have to come and die?” He came to die for our sins, and we’re all in the same boat, amen? We are all sinners who need to be saved by grace. And when you are saved by grace, and when you are born again, you enter into a new life but that does not automatically make you a spiritual rocket scientist.

So you need to download God’s wisdom and revelation. You need to allow Him to speak to you, and the more that you do—look here at the goal. The goal here is not so you’ll have a happier life, though you will have a happier life, you will! A wiser life is a happier life because you are not shooting yourself in the foot all the time. But the reason here, given in verse 17, is so you may know Him better. The more you have the Spirit–the Holy Spirit gives you wisdom and revelation–the more you will know Jesus, the more you can be like Him, relate to Him.  That’s why in marital counseling—I appreciate our Marriage Savers Ministry—one of the great books is by [Dr. Emerson] Eggerichs, Love and Respect [published by Thomas Nelson, 2004], and it talks about the differences between men and women. Some people just have massive revelation when they come across these things or watch the videos. “Ooooh, that’s how she thinks. That explains everything.” “That’s why he’s doing what he’s doing. That’s why he gets upset.” And they know their spouse more. Even though they are around their spouse, they have a download of wisdom and revelation, and they know them better, you with me? They know the other person better because now, they kind of get it, the light bulb goes on. I love those moments. “Oh, yeah, I get it.”

Well, it’s the same way with Jesus. The more we have the spirit of wisdom and revelation, the more we understand Him, and when we communicate with Him, we will understand Him more. And you know what? We will understand the world more. We’ll understand the world more. You know, there’s so much talk right now about the upcoming [presidential and state] elections, and I’ve got to tell you, first of all, I think Christians should vote. I think it’s part of our responsibility to be informed and vote. If you have no idea what’s going on, maybe it’s better if you don’t vote actually. [He chuckles.] It’s a privilege. You’re not going to go to Hell if you don’t know what’s going on and you don’t vote, but we should vote. We really should. But the wisdom of the world is so superficial, so superficial. Some people vote on the basis of identity, identity politics. A person has red hair and grew up in my hometown, so I’m voting for them. [Some people laugh.] And Christians sometimes do this. We vote for someone just because they are a Christian. That’s identity politics. And then the next layer is parties, Republicans and Democrats. That’s still immature, it really is immature. And then there are other layers, you know. Do they adhere to the Constitution that they swear to uphold? I guess that means you actually have to read the Constitution to know whether they do that or not.  It’s only about three pages; I recommend it sometime. Or are they just? But we are still at the human level. And I want to suggest to you, as we go through this series, particularly when we get to chapter six and we talk about spiritual warfare, there are layers of truth and revelation that are for us, that God has for us to understand the world around us, that go far deeper than Republican or Democrat. [Several shout, “Amen!”] I mean far deeper. And when those light bulbs go on, when you get that revelation, and you see the world and it’s like, “Yeah, I get it. I understand what’s going on now. I’m not confused anymore.”  The vast majority of people are confused, they are. Now, I’ve got to tell you, no matter how the elections go in November, I am not optimistic about this world. I’m just not. I’ll tell you, I’m optimistic about the body of Christ though. [Many shout, “Amen!”] God has a great thing in store for us. As the prophetic word said this morning [during worship, someone spoke a prophetic word received from God, which often happens in this body of believers], He has great things in store, if we get there. The spirit of wisdom and revelation, that is the first thing that Paul is praying for the church of Ephesus.

Number two: the hope to which He has called you. Faith, hope and charity, we so often talk about faith and love—charity is love—but we don’t often talk about hope. Hope, usually, is about Heaven, the future, the prize, the reward, here the inheritance for all the saints. The Kingdom of God has already come, it’s already here, and we are operating out of those kingdom principles, but it is also not yet. Already but not yet. We have a portion, we have a deposit—we talked about that last week a little bit—we have a deposit but the vast majority of it–just like any deposit—the vast majority of it is yet to be realized. And it is a great, great hope.

Yesterday, some of our family, at Mom’s birthday party, we were talking and we’re all believers that were there. And we were singing some old songs, and Mom remembered the words to the songs talking about Heaven [she is in a nursing home, suffering from Alzheimer’s]. I mentioned this before, and it came to me—I think it was a moment of revelation. Why doesn’t the Bible tell us a whole lot more about Heaven? I mean, wouldn’t you like to see a picture of it and kind of a timeline? You know, if you ever go on a guided tour or maybe a vacation with someone, and they have an itinerary: here is what you are going to do on Day 1, Day 2 is this.  When I went to Israel it was that way. Okay, Day 1 we are going to be in Nazareth and Day 2 we’re going to get on the Sea of Galilee, and Day 3 will be at the River Jordan, and so you kind of have a plan. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that for Heaven for just a month’s worth? Is there golf or isn’t there golf? I don’t know. [He and the congregation laugh.] We’re not told a whole lot, are we?  I mean, we’re given a glimpse. And I said I wonder if we were told how great it was, that no one would want to live this life. I never thought about that because I’m thinking more about Heaven than I used to. No one would want to live this life, and yet God wants us to love life. It’s good to want a long life. It’s good to want health. It’s good to want healing. It’s good to not every day say, “Oh, I just want to go home to the Lord.” It’s one of our three things up here [refers to a banner which hung at the front of our sanctuary which says] Love God, love people, love life. He wants us to love life. So He’s told us just a little bit, but I’ll tell you that hope is great. And the more we understand, the more the things of this world will mean less. When Penn State loses, it won’t affect us one bit [Penn State football team lost their Big Ten opener to the Iowa Hawkeyes yesterday, 24-3], amen? It won’t rob us of our joy, unless the Steelers lose in the same weekend [congregation laughs], then you can be depressed for two days. I understand. The hope for which He is calling you.

Number three: the great power. This power, He said, the same that was exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead [referring to Ephesians 1:20]. We’re talking real power here, spiritual power, and we want to see that. Some of you that have been around awhile realize that in the last some years, I’ve kind of become convinced that the focus and exaltation of natural power–worldly power, however it is expressed–competes with the spiritual power, that when we rely on the arm of the flesh, that we have less of the Arm of the Spirit. I understand that earthly power is there, and God’s ordained it. It’s part of the natural order, so I understand that. It’s part of life in this world. And yet our focus should be on spiritual power: Not by might, nor by earthly power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts [referring to Zephaniah 4:6, on which Pastor Grabill preached a series of four very powerful sermons. This is a foundational verse in Assemblies of God.] And I want to see that power in my generation–don’t you?–that power that raised Jesus from the dead. Wouldn’t it have been something to be in that cave, in that grave, the moment Jesus—well, we probably wouldn’t have survived it, because [he pauses, at a loss for words]. And we wouldn’t know how to describe it. Maybe it was like a nuclear reaction, but that body raised through those grave cloths, and had a new body which appeared to the disciples, that resurrection, Jesus who was dead and buried for three days and rose from the dead.

Now, I’m like some other people. I wonder what happened to that burial cloth the disciples discovered. I can’t imagine that anyone threw it away, and I can’t imagine they used it to wash their donkey with it. You know, they didn’t have cars, so [he pauses], put a shine on it, no way. So I wonder, I wonder sometimes. It’s the only thing He had left. His seamless gown that he had, that He wore, the soldiers cast lots for that. So the only tangible thing left was that grave cloth but that power that raised Jesus from the dead, the same spirit, the Bible says, that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you. He will quicken your mortal bodies, by that spirit that dwells in you. [very deliberately spoken] This is great power, the power of God. Some of you have felt that power. I’ve asked before how many of you have ever had a divine healing. I’m going to ask a question this morning. How many of you have ever felt from God an electrical, like an electrical impulse that went through your body, as commonly reported, or a heat, a warmth from God, when you were being prayed for or God was touching you? How many of you have felt that power in your body? Would you raise your hands? [A significant number of hands go up, though at the time no one counted them.] Okay, look at those hands, those of you who have not. It is for real! It is for real. We’re not talking about something theoretical. We’re talking about something that really happens, and so Paul prays for the Ephesians to have wisdom and revelation that their hope will be enlightened, and they will look forward to what God has for us. And the third thing is that God’s great power would be manifest in them. So the church wouldn’t just be talking about things; stuff would actually happen, would actually happen.

So let me return to this phrase: I keep asking. I keep asking. The first thing that I ask is why does Paul have to ask God to do something for the Ephesians? And he tells these churches when he writes to them, “Pray for me.” Why do they have to ask God to do something for Paul? Doesn’t Paul have a good enough relationship with God, without someone else having to intercede and talk for him? You with me? Why—I grew up curious, so I always ask why. How many “why” people are like me? You grew up asking why [many hands are raised], okay. This is a good community to live in [State College, PA which surrounds University Park, home of Penn State University], when you ask “why?” It’s tolerated here. Why do you need to pray for me? Why do I need to pray for you? Just think about it. Why is that? Does God not know what we need? Can’t we ask Him ourselves? Why does somebody else have to do it for us? Well, the answer is at the end of this chapter, verse 23: which is His body–and we’re going to talk more about that as we go through Ephesians—the body of Christ. So I’m thinking this week about this. How does this work? Why did You set it up this way, Lord? [the answer] We have to care for each other. Well, we are the body of Christ, and He wants one part to minister to the other. So that’s the way it is.

How many of you can’t stand spiders? [Many agree with him.] Okay. Imagine you go into an old house, has lots of cobwebs, you’re there with a flashlight, the lights aren’t on, you know, the haunted house kind of thing, and you see lots of cobwebs and all of a sudden you feel these multiple legs on your neck, okay? Instantly, you think it’s probably a spider, or something is on your neck. Well, the feeling in your neck sends a signal to your brain that a spider has landed on you. Immediately what happens with your hand? Your hand goes here [up to swat at his neck], for most of us. Some of you, your mind tells your feet to start moving, and some of you start screaming, loudly, high-pitched! [He chuckles.] I don’t know why we never scream low-pitched. You know, why don’t we scream [low, guttural sound] aaaaaaaaaaaa? It’s always [high-pitched] aaaaaaa.  I don’t know why. More piercing the better, I guess. And you run out of the house, okay? Your whole body is reacting to that one little sensation on your neck, that the spider has landed on your neck. Well, how did that signal, how did that information get to the brain to tell the hand what to do? Part of your body that is so indispensable is the central nervous system.  It’s the nerves in your body that send a signal, and then through that to the hand to tell the hand what to do, right? And when the central nervous system, when any of the nerves break down, you have difficulty. And next week we will talk about Christ being the head of the body. He is the head of the body.

So I am asking the Lord this week, okay, Christ is the head of the body but He’s not here. He’s in Heaven. What is the Holy Spirit? And I felt like God told me, the Holy Spirit is the central nervous system. It is the means of communication. It is not the blood vessels; it’s not the skeleton; it’s not the muscle tissue. It is the nervous system that communicates in the entire body. Now I know this and I want to talk a little bit, just to illustrate this. I know this myself. When the nerves don’t do their job, it affects your ability to function. I’ve had three surgeries, all of which did some nerve damage, two of which major. The lung surgery, where they were trying to extricate the three malignant tumors in the lungs, and they got everything but a little portion of one of them.  They spent a lot of time in there and it damaged the nerve that sends a signal to the right diaphragm. What the vast majority of you have not known for the last few years is that my right lung is half because my diaphragm won’t go back down. The nerve is there and the tissue is there but the nerve signal is broken, so when I breathe, it just stays right there. So I lost half the capacity on the right side. And that’s part of the difficulty that I’ve been having recently. Those tissues bunch together and stuff grows in there, so they are taking a look at that to know how to treat that, what to do. What you do know is that when I had jaw replacement, it was an eight-hour surgery, and the last half hour I lost control of the left side of my face. And so when I say the letter “O”, my mind is saying to my whole mouth, “Form the letter ‘O’”, but only half the mouth is responding. This side [he points to the right side] is forming it. All the muscles are there, everything is there that has to work, it’s just not getting the message. It’s not the spirit of revelation, it’s not getting there. And this is what happens when we lose connection with the Holy Spirit to the Head [referring to Jesus]. We’re not getting the message, you with me? I mean, we’re right there, we’re there, but we’re not there. And we’re not responding because the connection is broken. Somehow it is God’s desire that we are in constant communication with the Lord, with the Father through Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as the conduit of that information back and forth. And He wants us to talk to Him, not just about us, not just care about ourselves, He wants us to care about each other, amen? He wants us to spend time talking to Him about each other’s needs. You know, you would think–Paul helped establish, get things going in Ephesus, you can read it in the book of Acts, chapter 19, and you would think he could pray a once-and-for-all prayer, Lord bless them, bon voyage, God bless you, hope to see you in Heaven. But here he is, he’s praying for them all the time! Remembering them, giving thanks, and praying for them. I keep asking.

Most of us say grace over our meals and I jokingly said some time, “Why don’t we do that January 1st, just thank God for all the food for the whole year, and then we’re done with it, you know?” But it’s a good thing to say grace over meals. Jesus did it. In fact, the words of communion: the night Jesus was betrayed He took bread, and when He had given what?—thanks [Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19]. It’s a Jewish practice that Jesus did that’s a good thing for us to do, and by the way, when you give thanks before a meal, it’s almost communion. It’s not quite communion, but it’s almost. You are giving thanks for what you are about to partake to God; that is a good thing to do.  And by the way, research has shown that more families that eat together and pray together before the meals are healthier families. So just don’t send everybody out for pizza or McDonald’s or whatever. You need to sit down around the table, and pray, and eat together, amen? It’s a good thing to do.  So I keep asking.

Paul says to pray without ceasing. Apparently God would rather us nag Him than not talk at all. [Some in the congregation laugh.] You get that? I mean, He wants us to be in communication with Him at all times. Think about it, in any relationship, what is the key thing in any relationship? It’s not how you hug or kiss, I’ll tell you that. It’s communication. If communication is healthy, the relationship is healthy. If communication breaks down, everything breaks down, right? Same thing with God. So Paul says, I keep asking.

Now you’ll hear some people say, if you have faith, you should never ask more than once for anything from God. We need to talk about that for a moment. I think there is some truth in that, in that if you ask God for something and you feel the Holy Spirit says to you, “It’s done. It’s taken care of. Don’t worry about it.  It’s going to be delivered. Not sure what the delivery date is going to be, but—I mean, God knows, but you don’t know but–you don’t have to worry about it anymore.” I understand that. But is it wrong to be persistent in prayer? Well, Jesus told us, in the book of Luke, the story of the widow who went to the judge looking for justice–Luke 18 [verses 1-8]–to encourage us to be persistent in prayer. In Luke 11 [verse 9], when He tells us to ask and to seek and to knock, it’s very obvious in the Greek that it is ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking. But there will be times that you ask multiple times for something, and God says no. Did that happen to Paul? Yes, it did. He had a thorn in the flesh. He asked God three times to get rid of it [II Corinthians 12:7-9], and God said, “No, My grace is sufficient for you.”

So if God doesn’t tell you to stop asking, I think it’s great to keep asking. Why should you continue to pray for your unsaved loved ones, for your children every day, for your grandchildren, to pray for your church, pray for your pastor, to pray for your nation, to pray for all these needs? Because God wants us to. He wants us to ask and keep on asking. It’s what Paul did. I keep asking.

Well, there are those who say God has to do whatever you ask Him to do. Well, I understand, you know, when we are in the realm of faith that we should be in, Jesus said we can ask anything and it will be done of our Father which is in Heaven [John 14:14]. Yes, but we have to leave room for God to be God. And Jesus in the Garden [of Gethsemane] asked one time [Matthew 26:42], “Father, if it’s possible, let this cup pass from Me, but nevertheless, not My will but Your will be done.” Jesus was not looking forward to suffering for us.  He loved us, He knew that was His mission, but He wasn’t masochistic. He didn’t love pain, so He said, “Father if there is another way,” and the Father said, “No, there’s no other way, Son, there’s no other way.” And so Jesus was obedient, and we don’t see Jesus on the cross saying, “Father, I’m asking for the 34th time. I’m asking for the 68th time, can we get this over? We’ve gone far enough.” He asked one time. He had such a relationship with the Father that when the Father said, “No, Son, this is the way it has to be,” He said yes, and aren’t you glad He said yes. We would have no hope, we would have no hope, had Jesus not said yes to the Father and to His will.

So go ahead and keep asking, keep praying for your family, keep praying for others, keep praying for your community, keep praying for revival, just keep asking. Just keep asking. He wants us to. And the things that we don’t understand, we’ll leave in His hands, we’ll leave in His hands, because He knows the way. I pray for you today, that out of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, I pray that your hearts will be enlightened with the hope that we have in Christ.  No matter what you are dealing with right now, what lies ahead for us, Romans 8 [verse 18] says it is not worthy to be compared, the trials, any suffering that we face, is not worthy to be compared with the glories that lie ahead, and I pray for you that that great power that raised Jesus from the dead would not only minister to you but flow through you to others. I pray that for myself.

[Prayer] Lord, we desire Your power, but first give us the wisdom that we don’t use it foolishly, that we don’t make a big train wreck out of the whole thing. Lord, we want to be mature, we want to be wise, we want to be led by Your Spirit. Jesus, as we come to your table today, we come with humble hearts. We want to know You more, we want to know You more. Holy Spirit, help us learn more about Jesus, more about Jesus, more about Jesus in every way.

While your heads are bowed, I going to ask those who are serving communion, would you please come. Paul wrote this book of Ephesians when he was in Corinth. Later, he writes to Corinth and he talks about communion, and there’s a passage of warning, and there’s debate among people what that means. The best way I can summarize I Corinthians 11 and the warning there is that to receive communion we need to right with God and right with our brothers and sisters in Christ, so now is the time to examine our hearts. Are you right with God? If you’re not, you can turn your life over to Him right now. Simply receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Say, “Jesus, I confess that I’m a sinner. I receive your salvation. I receive your forgiveness. Forgive me of my sins. Come and rule and reign in my life.” If you do that, you’re right with God. You’re right with each other. It is a thanksgiving table, it’s a wonderful time. Let’s prepare our hearts as we receive. Please hold the bread and the cup until we all receive together this morning. God bless you.

 

 

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