Christ Spreads a Feast in Your Heart (Ephesians Sermon 19 of 54)
November 22, 2015 | Andrew Davis
Joy, Abiding in Christ, Glory of God, Holiness
So, as we've continued to look at Ephesians, we come to an amazingly rich section of this incredible epistle, and Daniel was mentioning how I'm kind of in the middle of four weeks of looking at Ephesians 3:14-21, and the larger unfolding of Ephesians. And these are verses that have captivated my mind and heart for literally decades. I've thought about these verses, and have been meditating on them and yearned to know even more the truths that are poured out here. Now, this week obviously is a special week for us in this country. We celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday, which is one of my favorite holidays, I just love it. I think it's just so healthy, isn't it? To be thankful. It's just so richly healthy for us to give thanks to God for all of his many blessings, and I love history, I like thinking about the Plymouth Plantation, and the Pilgrims and all, it's my home State of Massachusetts. Some good things happen in Massachusetts. Please don't quote me on that. But anyway, it was a historical moment. And I've been there to Plymouth Plantation. And we think about the incredibly difficult winter they went through, where 50% of their people died of disease, and how thankful they were just to be alive, and to have a crop come in, a harvest come in. And how they shared together with the Native Americans that were there, the Indians that were there that came, and just the three days of feasting. They would think we were feasting wimps. I mean we have just that one afternoon and we ate a little turkey and were wiped out, totally exhausted laying on the couch. They were at it for three days, they were eating venison. They were eating sweet eels, and freshwater mussels and other things that we probably wouldn't have enjoyed as much. And of course, wild Turkey and other things, a lavish chance for a feast.
A Meal with Jesus… Again and Again
An Infinitely Rich Relationship with Christ
And I want to just establish that kind of image in your mind as we look this morning at Ephesians chapter 3, because what I want to commend to you from Ephesians 3:14-21 is a sense of a spiritual feast in Christ, and actually a continual feast, a lavish feast of enjoying the love that Christ has for each one of us. Far greater than anything that we have experienced before. I want to just set that image of feasting in front of you. At the men's retreat, I was asking what's the difference between a feast and a meal? And they're not essentially different, but it's a difference of quantity and quality, and that we would have a far greater sense of Christ's love for us, and a far deeper and richer sense, that's the sense of feast that I have. And maybe you've just been eating meals through the Spirit, but the Lord has so much more that He could give to each one of us, a sense of assurance, and like in that hymn, Blessed Assurance, “a foretaste of glory divine,” that's what I have in mind. That you would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God, specifically on the issue of Christ immeasurable, infinite love for you individually. And that we would experience that together.
Paul’s Glorious Prayer for the Ephesian Christians
And so I want you to look again at Ephesians 3:14-21, but I'm going to zero in on a couple of verses in the middle of it, but it's just so good. Paul there prays, he says, "For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom the whole family,” His whole family in Heaven and Earth, “derives its name, I pray that out of His glorious riches, He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints to grasp how wide, and long, and high, and deep is the love of Christ. And that you would know that love that surpasses knowledge, so that you would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever, amen."
Now, that is a prayer. And it just has such a sense of a brushing against infinitude, a sense of the dimensions of God's love for us, that so far beyond anything that we've ever experienced. This is a prayer but it also has become for us scripture as well. This prayer is the Word of God, and it is also a prayer, and so this points to the means of grace by which we can experience this lavish blessing. It is by the ministry of the Word of God and by prayer that we are going to step into a higher realm, or higher experience of the love of God in Christ than ever before. By these means.
Now, as I'm talking about this unusual, extraordinary, perhaps even ecstatic experience of God's love for us in Christ, I know that in some people's minds, warning lights go off, warning flags, you're worried about it. "Okay, have we become a cult? Things were going really, really good. And then we got to Ephesians 3, and then it got really, really weird." And Southern Baptists in particular, are afraid of these kind of things, afraid of charismatic things, afraid of other things. And I'm not talking here about an unhealthy unbiblical empty-headed mysticism. I'm not talking about Eastern Mysticism, where the desire is to become empty to become nothing, a drop in an endless sea. I'm not talking about that, or even in church history, even in recent history, some that have pursued experiences severed from doctrine, severed from the text of scripture. I'm not talking about a severing at all. What I'm talking about is that you're so immersed in the Word of God and you start to see the truths that are in it, like even in this text, that they start to spiral higher and higher, and like the circuit breakers of your brain starts going off, because the truth is so overwhelming, you're so filled with it.
That there's a sense here of filling, not emptiness, of being filled with the measure of all the fullness of God. That's what I'm talking about. A healthy, I think, biblical Christian spiritual mysticism, that's one ecstatic experiences. The unusual working of the Holy Spirit that is possible beyond that. I want to say this, and this is something I'm going to develop this more in future weeks, but I believe that the ordinary working of the Spirit in a healthy Christian life is sufficient for a rich life, of blessing of fruitfulness, and getting you to Heaven. And we need to celebrate and study and embrace what the Holy Spirit ordinarily does in a Christian life. And I'm going to talk more about that in subsequent weeks. But the Holy Spirit can do extraordinary things, has done extraordinary things, and those should be welcomed and embraced, and even sought as well. And that's what I'm talking about here.
So the desire here is a prayer, Paul's praying for the Ephesians Christians that they would have a far greater experience of the love of Christ, and of God than they've ever had before. Now, the key insight here, and I'm going to make it every week that we study these verses, is that Paul is praying for Christians to have this experience. They are already Christians. He's not praying for outsiders to come to an initial faith in Christ, he's praying for Christians. This is very important. And now today, we're going to focus on one phrase in the middle of this beautiful flowing prayer, and that's in verse 17. Look at it if you would. "That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." You see it there in verse 17, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith."
Now, many Evangelists Zero in on this concept. Rightly so, I think. And they say things like, "You have to ask Jesus into your heart." And that's fine, it's not a Biblical expression you won’t to see that, but I understand it and I'm not against it, but what I want you to understand is this isn't evangelism, you're not praying for lost people to come to faith in Christ, he's praying for people who are already believers, they're already Christian. Then you could say, "Wait a minute now, isn't Jesus already in my heart? Why are you praying this, that Christ would dwell in my heart? Are you saying I'm not a Christian?" No, no, not at all. He's already said, they are. And he said it very plainly. If you look at the beginning of the book in Ephesians 1:1, who is he writing to? "Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus." They're already Christians. He also talks about their history of being brought into Christ, in Ephesians 1:13. He says, "You also were included in Christ, when you heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance."
So he said that's already happened to you. You've already heard the Gospel, the words of the Gospel, how God sent His son into the world, who lived a sinless life, who died an atoning death, you already heard this in the baptism, Sam’s baptism, how Jesus shed His blood as an atoning sacrifice for sinners like you and me, and how He died in our place, and how God raised Him physically from the dead. And if we sinners simply repent and believe in Jesus, will have full forgiveness of sin. Well, Ephesians 1:13, that already happened for these Ephesians. They had already heard the Gospel, they already believed it, they had already been “sealed with the Spirit,” they had already had some experiences with the Spirit. The “sealing of the Spirit” has already happened, but he's praying for more. He's praying for something vastly more than they've experienced before. Now, if they are Christians, we believe the doctrine is that they already have the Holy Spirit living inside them.
Jesus said in John 14:16-17, "I will ask the Father and He will give you another counselor to be with you forever. The Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him because it neither sees Him nor knows Him, but you know Him for He lives with you and will be in you." You see that, the doctrine of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God taught there in John 14, and then in Romans 8:9, Paul goes right to the nth degree on this, and he says "You however, are controlled not by the flesh, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." That's very plain, isn't it? If you are a Christian, you have the Spirit of Christ already living within you. That's plainly taught.
So, why then is Paul praying for these Ephesians Christians in this way, that Christ would “dwell in their hearts by faith?” What does he mean? We would imagine that if he were alive today, he would pray for First Baptist Durham, for us, the same way. And we wouldn't come to him saying, "Now Paul, don't you know that I'm a Christian, I already have the indwelling... " He knows, he wrote it, he wrote Romans 8:9! He knows the doctrine. But still, he's praying for these Ephesians that Christ would “dwell in their hearts by faith.” So this is a prayer for Christians, not for non-Christians. And I want to go beyond this to say, this is a prayer for all Christians, not just a special category of Christians. This isn't for the super spiritual alone, you know, the special ones. It's so easy for us to think that this kind of astounding vastly deep infinitely rich ecstatic experience of the love of God poured into our hearts. Something like that is, it's something so overpowering that it takes your breath away, that it's unforgettable, supernatural a foretaste of heavenly joy, far above the normal Christian experience, as the normal Christian experience is far above the non-Christian experience. It's just that much higher above anything you've ever experienced before, with all of that is only for the All-Stars, the super Christians, the super spiritual ones, the specialists, the monks, the mystics, the weird ones. I don't know, the ones that go live in caves and sit on pillars for years, and they give them food through a bucket and that's all they do is focus and fast and pray and wear hair shirts, and are weird, and then have these mystical experiences. I am not advocating that friends, not at all.
Who Are the Saints?
And frankly, the word “saints” can throw us off a little bit here. Saints. Look at verse 17 through 19, he says, "I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints." See that? "To grasp how wide, and long, and high, and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Well, the Roman Catholic error on this word saints is pervasive, it's actually pretty famous in our culture. We're actually pretty familiar with that. I grew up as a Roman Catholic in eastern Massachusetts, I was an altar boy, I was trained in the sacraments, I was baptized as an infant. I took holy communion, the Eucharist, the Mass, the confessional confirmation, all of the sacraments. I was Roman Catholic. And I attended two different churches in my childhood growing up, St. Jeremiah in Framingham, and St. Anselm's, in Sabre.
But you know what I'm talking about, “Saint this,” “Saint that,” “Saint the other,” these are Catholic churches, many if not most Catholic churches are named after saints, or after the Virgin Mary. So, that's a wrong use of the word Saint. The word literally means set apart unto God as holy, holy ones, and it's used consistently of all Christians. I mean right away in Ephesians 1:1, Paul wrote the epistle to the “saints in Ephesus, the ones that are faithful in Christ Jesus,” that's what it is. So what ends up happening is if you start arguing that these kinds of experiences are not for every Christian but just for some special people, then you're going to start acting like you believe that whole dichotomy of saints and regular Christians that is unbiblical. But it's interesting how Evangelicals can start behaving like that when they talk about these kinds of things.
Now, I don't necessarily say that there are direct promises to every Christian that you'll have ecstatic experiences. Think about this, Jesus had 12 apostles, and He took three with Him up on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James, and John. The other nine stayed down on the lower ground. I'm not saying God does this equally to everyone, etcetera. What I'm saying is don't rule yourself out because you look at yourself and say, "I'm not special, I'm not one of those ones and so I'm not going to seek God in prayer." The saints, I said to the men at the men's retreat, it's like the Roman Catholic Hall of Fame. You get voted in by the College of Cardinals, you get canonized and those are the special ones. Friends, these are just ordinary brothers and sisters who are in Ephesus. And Paul's praying for them to have it and all the saints. To have this experience of God's love. So don't check out, don't disqualify yourself as you listen to this sermon, in the next two weeks, don't say "This isn't for me. This is just weird or different, maybe it's for other people, but it's just not for me."
It's for you, I'm praying for you, I'm praying for each of you that's hearing my voice, that you would have an infinitely greater sense of Christ's love for you than you've ever had before. And it's the kind of thing we can pray for each other. Husbands can pray for wives, wives for husbands. The kind of thing we can pray for our children, who are believers, as they're growing, that they would have this kind of experience that God would do this, that we can pray for other people in our home fellowship.
Paul’s Prayer: Christ Dwelling in Our Hearts By Faith
Now, let's look at what he actually prays for here. Now, let's look at it, what does he pray for? Well, I'm going to zero in on verse 17, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." Now, what does that mean, the word dwell? Other synonym will be abide or live, and it's got a prefix “down” in the Greek. So the idea here is of settling down, that Jesus would settle down in your heart, take up residence in your heart. Well, what is the heart? The heart is the inner person, the inside of you, it's your inner being in verse 16, it's the center of your personality, the core of you're being, it's biblically, the part of you that thinks, and reasons, and loves, and hates, and decides chooses feels emotions. That inner core of your being, that Jesus would come and settle down in that, like a sense of permanent residency, that He's going to come live with you in your heart. That's what he's praying for. And he says, it happens by faith, it happens only by trust in the Word of God. As you hear the word and you trust it, as you believe it, this can happen, a sense of Christ settling down in your heart by faith. And it's by faith alone, that this could ever happen, it's not by works. Now, I'm going to advocate a pattern of increasing holiness and obedience as necessary to the feast that Christ is going to spread in your heart, but you should not misunderstand that, it's necessary. I'm going to talk about that, but it's not something that God is going to reward all of that labor with this blessing. It's not by works this happens, but the works are necessary to be ready for God to pour out His blessing. Friends, we are justified by faith alone, apart from works. Isn't that good news? It's just like Daniel was saying before that, that song, there's nothing we can do to earn our forgiveness, ever. And one of the dangers of pursuing this, and when you see the necessity of spiritual exertion is you're going to forget justification by faith, and you start becoming works-oriented, don't do that. But it's by faith alone that Christ would settle down in your heart by faith.
Now, I want to give you this image of a feast, a meal with Jesus again and again. Jesus wants to have a meal with you. He wants to eat with you. Do you realize what a big theme eating is in the New Testament, especially with Jesus in the Gospels? It just seems like He did nothing apart from a dinner, or He's just eating all the time. And I want to bring to you in your mind, you can look there if you want to. I actually urge you, if you're willing, to turn to Revelation chapter 3. And I want to zero in on one of the most misunderstood, and misquoted, and misapplied verses you're going to find in the New Testament, Revelation 3:20. It goes like this. This is Jesus speaking, "Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me."
Meals with Jesus Again and Again and Again!
Now, I was trained in evangelism through Campus Crusade for Christ, now called CRU. They use the four spiritual laws. This Revelation 3:20 is at the end. This is right before the sinner's prayer. And this is the training that you get, and it's used in an evangelistic context. Again, I don't think there's anything wrong and I think there's everything right with asking sinners to repent and trust in Christ and giving the image of Christ dwelling in their hearts by faith. That's fine. But Revelation 3:20, you need to look at it in context. This is one of the seven letters to the churches. This is a church. This is the church of Laodicea. And this church of Laodicea is described as lukewarm by Jesus, “neither hot nor cold.” And He wishes that they were either hot or cold, and he wants to “spew them out of his mouth.” He yearns for them to be hot or cold. Is lukewarmness for a local church a danger to that local church? Oh it is. Can any local church say, "I know for a fact that this church will never become lukewarm." I say you cannot make that kind of assertion. This is the danger, but what does he specifically say? Well, they are self-satisfied with this lukewarm condition. If you look at Revelation 3:17, "You say I am rich. I've acquired wealth and I do not need a thing. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked." Well, these are strong words for Jesus to be speaking to a church. Now, don't misunderstand me. I don't believe that First Baptist Durham is a Laodicean church. It's really that I yearned that it not be a Laodicean church 20 years from now that I'm preaching this right now, that's all. But do you not see in Revelation 3:17 our danger? Material prosperity leads to spiritual lethargy. You say, “I'm rich, everything's, all my needs are met, live in a nice comfortable home, I drive a nice car, I have plenty of clothes, and I don't need anything from Jesus.” But you don't see yourself properly, Jesus is saying. You don't realize spiritually you're wretched. I think of a bedraggled person without a raincoat or umbrella in a downpour ringing your doorbell. That's a wretched individual. "Come on in, I know you're freezing, and you're wet and let me get you out of those clothes, and you need some hot soup." That's a wretched individual. Many of us are like that even in the midst of material prosperity, living the Walmart life. You know what I'm talking about? We're going to buy our happiness somewhere, and we're just so glutted with things and we don't realize just how bad things are spiritually. And so, then He invites them to have a meal with him. "Behold I stand at the door." And the image that I think is of the inner being door of your heart is fine, and He's knocking, and notice how individual it is. At this point He's speaking to individuals. If any individual person, anyone, “will hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me." Jesus wants an experiential meal with you. That's what He wants.
John’s Gospel: With Whom Do We Share This Meal
Another image of this is in John chapter 1. Go over to John chapter 1. John's Gospel is an amazing Gospel. I think it was written years, if not decades, after Matthew, Mark and Luke were finished. So it just comes out at a different angle, different stories, tells different stories, tells the biography of Jesus differently. It doesn't need to cover the same ground that Matthew and Mark and Luke covered. So it's very selective. John is very, very selective, and it's really interesting, all the incredible things that Jesus said and did that he never even mentions. But in the middle of Chapter 1, he talks about something so, seems like pedantic or insignificant. You wonder, how did it make the cut? How did it make it into John's Gospel? Now, in John 1, one of the great chapters, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." In John 1:14, "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us,” He tabernacled with us, “and we have seen His glory. Glory the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." The prologue. And then we get the ministry of John the Baptist, who identifies Jesus and points to Jesus who comes to be baptized by him, and points to Him says, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. And I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God." It's an incredible statement.
And then you get this account. And this is just, it's like, "What is this in here for?" I don't want to question God's Word. But John, Apostle John, who wrote this Gospel, why did you include this? Look at verse 35 through 39. "The next day John," that's John the Baptist, "was there again with two of His disciples." Two unnamed disciples. "When he saw Jesus passing by he said, 'Behold the Lamb of God.' When the two disciples heard him say this they followed Jesus. Turning around Jesus saw them following and asked, 'What do you want?' They said, 'Rabbi' Which means teacher, "Where are you staying?' 'Come,' He replied, 'and you will see.' So they went and saw where He was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour."
I mean, don't you wonder how that made the cut? How did he get on the team? Well, I have a theory about this, not my own. It came from AB Bruce in, The Training of the Twelve. He believed that that was the first time the Apostle John ever saw Jesus and talked to him. And that's the kind of thing that years later as an old man, you're going to start crying when you remember the first time you ever talked to Jesus. And what went on that day? You know what went on? They're just walking, and you get the picture, just walking along and stop and Jesus turns, right? And they're a little embarrassed that, I don't know if they were stalking Jesus, or what their plan was. But turns around and says, "What do you want?" Jesus is always doing that. And if I can just say in the basis of Ephesians 3, He's standing before you in light of this text Ephesians 3 and saying, "What do you want from me? I'll give you what you want, just ask me." He's always making us ask. "So what do you want?" And they didn't know what they wanted. So, this is like us. We're always like that. So they ask Him a question, "Where are you staying?" You know what is implied, is, "I want to know you. I want to be with you. John said some amazing things about you. I'd like to get to know you." And Jesus said, "Come and see." What are the words? Hang out with Jesus? Wouldn't you love to just hang out with Jesus? And how sweet was that? Now, you're saying, "Oh, Pastor it doesn't say they had a meal." I know you kind of technical people in here. But it says it was about the tenth hour. It was about four in the afternoon. Any chance they might have had dinner together? And then at the end of his life. Go back to Ephesians 3 now if you would. But at the end of his life, we have the Last Supper and Jesus says, "I've earnestly desired to have this feast with you before my time comes." He says, it's a very intensive, "With deepest desire I have desired to eat with you." Jesus yearns to have this Last Supper. And then the institutes the Last Supper, the ordinance, so that we're going to forever remember that someday we're going to feast with Jesus in the Kingdom of Heaven. We're going to sit at a table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and many from the east and from the west and we're going to sit at a table and feast with Jesus. So every time we sit down and take the bread and the juice we're thinking feast, feast, feast someday. And we can have a foretaste of that feast through the power of the Holy Spirit, that sense of a continual feasting.
Or how about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus? Wouldn't you love to have been one of those two? And they're having that conversation with Jesus on resurrection morning. And Jesus is the ignorant stranger who has no idea about current events. Remember that, just walking around? What happened? It's like, "Are you the only stranger here or only a stranger who doesn't know what's happened?" "About what?" "About Jesus of Nazareth. He was powerful. He was attested to by signs and wonders, and we had hoped that He was going to be the one, and then He died. But meanwhile, some of our women have astounded us with a story about an empty tomb and we just can't make hide nor hair of it, can't figure it out." "How foolish you are." Jesus said, "And how slow of spirit to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter into His glory?” And then, beginning right there on the road, He showed them everything that was written about the Christ in the Law and the Prophets and Psalms. And then, they had a meal together. They sat down and they had a meal together, and they didn't know who He was until He broke bread, and then their eyes are open and he disappeared. And then they said, "Were not our hearts burning within us when He opened the Scriptures to us?" I'm after the burn in your heart. That's what I yearn for. I yearn for your heart to be burning within you through the scripture as you feast with Jesus. That's my desire.
The Banquet Hall Prepared
The Hall is Your Heart: Christ is Coming to You
So now, I want you to have a sense of the banquet hall. The banquet hall is getting prepared, alright? Where is this feast going to be? Well, we've already said. It's going to be in your inner being. It's going to be in your heart. You're not going to Jesus' palace. He's coming to you. He's going to have the feast inside of you. You think about Esther 1, where King Xerxes had this incredible 180 day festival culminating in this huge feast, and all of the decorations were up, right? And all of the banquet tables are spread, and the goblets are there, and the plates are out and everything's ready; meticulous. Everything's ready. Well, Jesus is going to send an advanced team to your heart and get things ready, and He's going to strengthen your heart, and He's going to purify your heart, and He's going to get everything ready, like He sent the disciples ahead to get the upper room ready for the Last Supper. He's going to send the advanced team. The advanced team is the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit's going to come and He's going to get you ready.
Look again at Verses 16 and 17, "I pray that out of His glorious riches, He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." So the Holy Spirit's going to come and He's going to get you ready. Now, He's going to clean you up. It's a matter of dealing with sin and a matter of personal holiness. Sinlessness is not required for this feast. Then no one would partake. But if we are in willful patterns of sin, violating our conscience, you will not experience this feast, and the Holy Spirit has come to convict us, and to get us ready. John 14:21, Jesus said this, "Whoever has my commandments and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. And whoever loves me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and manifest” or disclose “myself to him." So the revelation of Jesus to our hearts is in proportion to obedience. It's not by works, it's by faith, but the more disobedient we are, the less we're going to feast with Jesus.
And so, He's going to get us ready. He's going to strengthen us, and He's going to get us ready. And He's going to give us a yearning for this feast. That's the first thing He does. He's like, "I want it. I admit that I'm like the Laodiceans. I admit that I'm lukewarm spiritually, that I've been lazy spiritually, that I've been materialistic, that I've lived for stuff I can buy at Walmart; the material lifestyle. I'm saying effectively, "I'm rich, I have acquired wealth and don't need a thing. And Jesus, I know is saying to me, 'You don't realize that you're wretched spiritually, pitiful, poor and blind and naked. I want to feast with you, but we've got to clean you up. And we've got to get you ready and yearning for the feast.'" A lot of that comes because, like C.S. Lewis said, we're far too easily pleased. This quote that was used in, Desiring God. C.S. Lewis said this, "If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We're half-hearted creatures fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum, because he cannot imagine what's meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea." We're far too easily pleased.
The Aroma from the Feast
Believers Have Testified to this Feast
Alright, I think Ephesians 3:14 through 21, is offering you a holiday at the sea. So many people act like they want to keep on making the mud pies in the slum. It's like, "No, there's something better for you." Now, historically, there have been testimonies of these kinds of experiences. And I'm going to share just one today and more in the coming weeks. You just need to know what kind of things your brothers and sisters have experienced. Foretaste of Heaven. This one is Richard Robarts. He was a minister of God in the 19th century. He died of consumption, very hard death, at age 36, and over the months that he was dying he had multiple ecstatic experiences; foretastes of heavenly joy. As a matter of fact, they were so overwhelming that people standing around his bed would have been glad, they told him, would have been glad to trade places and have his disease if they could also have his joy. Like, "Oh my, have I ever had anything like that happen to me?"
This account about him [Richard Robarts] writes, "In the course of this day he experienced an ecstasy of Heavenly joy, His eyes were bathed in tears. He uttered words of praise, consolation and triumph. It appeared as if he were already transported into Paradise. It was evident that he experienced a foretaste of Heaven. He said, 'Oh I am happy in my God in His love. I'm going to possess Him forever. I shall enter into that city whose streets are of fine gold. Yes, the New Jerusalem, from above the city of the living God.'"
The final entry in his journal, he wrote this, "Since my last attack three weeks ago, the Lord has been near, and has manifested His love to my soul to an uncommon degree. I have been deeply humbled under a sense of my unworthiness and past unfaithfulness, but I have felt myself firmly fixed upon the rock of ages and have been enabled to anticipate my departure from the body with unspeakable delight." Now listen to these words. "One thing has much occupied my mind, namely the proneness I have ever felt to rest short of all the fullness of God. Often, it seemed within my grasp. Often my soul has seemed about ready to take possession of it, but never did I enjoy a constant sense of it of all the great salvation of God. However, I never gave up the hope of possessing it fully, and I trust that even now I shall obtain my heart's desire." That's all of us. We tend to be short of the fullness of God, short of that experience. We kick out before it comes.
How to Feast with Jesus
So how do we pursue it? And how do we go after this? Well, we pursue it by meditation on God's Word, not by empty-headed meditations, like, what's the sound of one hand clapping? That's Buddhism friends, I'm not preaching Buddhism. Take the word of God and meditate on it. Take a passage that describes the glories of Christ. Take Revelation 1. Take any passage of an account of a miracle or extended teaching from Jesus, and just work through it in meditation, Take Ephesians 3:14-21 and meditate on it. Do it in prayer. Ask God to “pour out His love into your heart by the Holy Spirit.” Let Him pour that out, say what Paul writes about here, "Do it for me." And extend it horizontally to pray for other brothers and sisters. Pray for your spouse, pray for your parents, your kids, pray for your friends, your roommates, your co-workers that you know are Christians, and ask God to give this to you. And as I've hinted at, and I'll talk more about in the next two weeks, ask God to show you your sin. Ask him to show you your worldliness, to show you the way that you have been feeding on lesser blessings and missing out on the real blessing.
If I could just say a word to you, who will not be active in preparing the feast on Thursday, men, kids, alright? For the most part. Imagine though, if you're a man and your wife's getting a lavish feast ready, and you're on your way home and you swing in at the drive-through at McDonald's and pick up a double quarter pounder with cheese and a large order of fries and a chocolate shake, and you pound all that down. And you come in and there's all these aromas and these different pots and all that. And it's like, "I'm full. I couldn't eat another bite." Your wife looks at you with horror, and probably anger. And so, what in the world did you do? What did you do? And you're there with the bag, the McDonald's bag, and it's like, "Okay, I had something to eat on the way home. I'm really not hungry right now." That's us going after worldly things when something infinitely greater is offered, a feast far better than that is offered to us.
Heavenly Experiences Captured in Song
We're going to close in a minute with one of my favorite hymns. A lot of hymn writers had these experiences. I think Blessed Assurance, maybe I've never really looked at those lyrics. I don't know how to read the lyrics of Blessed Assurance without thinking about an ecstatic experience. I mean, if you just are fair to the language, "Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine, heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of His Spirit, washed in His blood, a perfect submission, perfect delight, visions of rapture now burst in my sight." Now, that's either poetic or something happened to her, and she was blind. And I wonder if she just had an ecstatic vision of God, that the angels were bringing her. "Angels descending bringing from above echoes of mercy, whispers of love." Third verse "Perfect submission, all is at rest, I in my savior am happy and blessed." Don't you want that? Don't you want to just be happy in Jesus? Assured of forgiveness, knowing you're going to Heaven, happy and blessed “watching and waiting, looking above filled, with His goodness, lost in His love.” Just say, "I want that. Whatever Fanny was going through, do that for me."
And in a few moments, we're going to sing Jean Pigott's Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting. Hudson Taylor's favorite hymn. And Daniel and his team have been working on it. I can't wait to hear it. It's just beautiful. But I have a hard time reading these lyrics without being moved to tears. "Jesus I am resting, resting in the joy of what Thou art. I am finding out the greatness of thy loving heart. Thou hast bid me gaze upon thee and thy beauty fills my soul, for, by thy transforming power, thou hast made me whole. Oh, how great Thy loving kindness, vaster, broader than the sea. Oh, how marvelous thy goodness, lavished all on me! Yes, I rest in thee Beloved, know what wealth of grace is thine. Know Thy certainty of promise and have made it mine. Simply trusting thee, Lord Jesus, I behold thee as thou art. And thy love, so pure, so changeless, satisfies my heart, satisfies its deepest longings, meets, supplies its every need. Compasseth me round with blessing, thine is love indeed. Ever lift thy face upon me, as I work and wait for thee, resting 'neath thy smile, Lord Jesus, Earth's dark shadows flee. Brightness of my Father's glory, sunshine of my Father's face, keep me ever trusting, resting, fill me with thy grace." I'm urging you church seek that. Seek it, and don't rest short of having received its fullness. Let's close in prayer.
Father, we thank you for the chance we've had today to study these rich words and this concept of Jesus settling down in our hearts by faith. And I pray that we would have an experience of Christ in our hearts, in our hearts continually, Help us to learn to feast on Jesus. And Lord I pray that even now as these brothers and sisters lead us in this song, I pray that your Spirit would move in this place, and we would realize how much rich blessing still awaits us if we would just seek it, in Jesus' name, Amen.