Prayer to the God of Glory (Ephesians Sermon 5 of 54)
May 17, 2015 | Andy Davis
Glory of God, Prayer, Spiritual Warfare
I have to be honest with you, I have always struggled with prayer my entire Christian life. From the very beginning of my Christian life, I wasn't really sure how prayer worked. I'm still not entirely sure how it works. I remember early, maybe a few months after I came to Christ, I was being discipled by a guy with Campus Crusade for Christ. We were working on a car. I'll never forget this. I was trying to get a spark plug changed and it just wouldn't work. We worked on it together for about an hour, to the point where I couldn't even look at the car anymore. I was so frustrated by this. He said, "Why don't we pray?" I said, "Why should we pray?" He said, "What?" I said, "Well, why should we pray? God's just going to do what He's going to do, anyway." He rebuked me without giving me an answer to that deep theological question. We never did get that spark plug in. I'll never forget driving my car with one of the spark plugs out. It sounds worse than if it has no muffler. I'll never forget the guy running out and telling me to turn the engine off. I’ll never forget that. He said, "One of the spark plugs is missing!" Well, we knew that. We said that we couldn't get the spark plug in and he looked at me like I was lower than a worm. "You couldn't get a spark plug in?" he said, "Give it to me." He took the spark plug and reached back and his hand came back empty. I said, "Where are you going?" He said, "I'm going to get a wrench to tighten it. It's in." It was just like that. I felt like a total loser. Now, Tim, my discipler later said, "God answered our prayer. The spark plug got put in." I said, "Yeah, but I didn't want all that trouble and I didn't want to be ashamed." And still those words that I spoke years ago have plagued me and haunted me in reference to prayer. Why should I pray? God's going to do what He's going to do anyway.
Have you ever struggled with prayer? Do you struggle now? Would any of you say that your prayer lives are exactly what they should be? Well, I don't know anyone that would say that. Even those that are flourishing the most in prayer, still yearn for more. There was a time in Luke 11 when Jesus's disciples came upon Him praying. They watched Him praying and they watched Him finish His time of prayer. They said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray." I feel that don't you. Say, "Lord, teach me to pray. I want to pray, better than I do." It seems to me that in Ephesians 1 and again later we'll see in Ephesians 3, the Lord has to some degree said to all of us, "Have you considered My servant Paul? He'll teach you to pray." We can learn from the Apostle Paul, what to pray for and how to pray. So, as we come to Ephesians 1 and we're going to focus this morning on 15-17, we're going to learn better how to pray. My desire is that as a result of this sermon and this study, all of us will pray better. That we will flourish actually in our prayer lives, that we will pray better individually, that we will pray better corporately because we need that.
Thanksgiving for the Ephesians’ Genuine Conversion
Now, Paul begins in verses 15 and 16 with thanksgiving for the Ephesians’ genuine conversion. The Apostle Paul has already unfolded in verses 3-14, I would say the single most magnificent sentence in all of scripture. It's one long sentence, 12 verses. He has unfolded in a very quick way, the theology of the Ephesians’ salvation. How it began “before the foundation of the world.” How God chose them in Christ before the foundation of the world and how “God the Father predestined them in love to be adopted as His sons” and how God planned this entire salvation out before anything came to be. And how then, Jesus, God the Son, shed His blood. We have “redemption” in verse 7 “through His blood,” and how God the Spirit applies that to us individually when we “heard to word of truth, the Gospel of our salvation having believed we were sealed with the Holy Spirit.” So we have the work of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit, in the salvation of these Ephesian Christians.
What Moved Paul to Pray?
Paul tells them how he’s been praying for them. He says in verses 15 and 16, "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." We have Paul beginning with thanksgiving and also we see his intercession for them. There are parts of prayer that are adoration and thanksgiving in which we thank God for who He is and what He's done. We worship Him, we praise Him. We then acknowledge our own neediness and our inadequacy for the challenges and we confess those things to God and say, "We need You. We have to have Your help." So we are confessing that God is all sufficient and we are needy. So, Paul begins with thanksgiving and then he moves on to intercession, making requests for the Ephesians. Now, what was it, he says that moved Paul to pray for the Ephesians? He says, "Ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints," Paul had heard greatly encouraging reports about how the Gospel had transformed their lives. In other words, he had compelling evidence of their genuine conversion to Christ.
Marks of Genuine Conversion
So, what are marks of genuine conversion? How can you know that you're born again? How can you know that you're elect? How can you know that you're saved? He talks first about faith in the Lord Jesus. It's not enough for someone to believe in God. A lot of people say that they believe in God. Jews believe in God. Muslims will say that they believe in God. Hindus believe in God. Paul is moved specifically by their reports of their faith in the Lord Jesus. They believe in the Lord Jesus, he says. Now, the Gospel came to Ephesus and at the center of the Gospel is the truth about the Lord Jesus. This cuts to the center of what a sinner has to believe to be saved. Jesus is the center of the Gospel, specifically His saving work on the cross. Look again at verse 7, “in Him,” that is in Jesus, “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” So faith in the Lord Jesus means, "I have renounced any effort at self salvation. I am not self sufficient. I cannot atone for my own sins. I am a sinner. I have cast myself on the saving work of Jesus on the cross. I have trusted in Him to save me.
But, who was this person who died on the cross? Who was this individual? The simple two words, Lord Jesus, sums up a lot of doctrine about the Christian religion. "Lord" emphasizes the deity of Christ. "Jesus" emphasizes the humanity. This man, this human being, born of the virgin Mary, in the ordinary way as a baby was raised and grew physically, he grew in wisdom, stature and in favor with God and man. He just grew up before the eyes of witnesses, of neighbors who saw Him grow up from a little boy. He had flesh and bones and blood. Who needed food, air and water in order to survive. He, in many ways, was just the same as you and me. He had no “physical appearance, beauty or majesty, there was nothing in His appearance that was unique.” He wasn't glowing with the glory of God all the time. He did, on the Mount of Transfiguration, but that wasn't His consistent appearance. He looked ordinary, very ordinary. He was a normal human being. He got tired and needed to sleep. Most of all, He could die. He was a human being in that He could die. That's the humanity of Jesus. We also see the deity of Christ, the Lord. The deity of Christ. We believe that Jesus is God in the flesh, that He is truly the Lord Jesus Christ. The Ephesians came to believe that their Savior was not only human, able to shed His blood and die, but also God as proven by the resurrection from the dead. He was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead. This is essential to our salvation. It says in Romans 10:9, "If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." You have to confess to the deity of this man, Jesus. This confession, this conviction, that Jesus who lived 2000 years ago is actually God in the flesh, can only come about by the direct working of the Holy Spirit of God on your heart. Only if the Holy Spirit of God works on you and in you, will you ever be able, truthfully, to make the confession “Jesus is Lord.” It says in 1 Corinthians 12:3, "No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit." We can never make that confession except by the direct action of the Spirit of God. Paul believed and had heard that these Ephesians could make that confession. They believed in the Lord Jesus. They had left their pagan ways, their belief in many gods and goddesses. They turned their backs on all of that and they believed that Lord Jesus was their personal savior and their God. This is the first evidence of their genuine conversion. Secondly, he talks about their “love for all the saints.” This is the other great transformation in the Holy Spirit, not only vertically, believing in the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, believing that Jesus is God vertically, but horizontally. It transforms how you treat others, and especially how you treat other Christians, how you feel about other Christians he mentions.
Now, the natural man not born again, has no special desire for fellowship with other Christians. I know I didn't. Before I was converted, I didn't like Christians. I didn't want to be around them. I think that the Apostle Paul would say, " I was in the exact same condition, brother. I didn't like Christians at all. As a matter of fact, I used to drag them off to prison, both men and women." Paul hated other Christians. He had no desire for fellowship with them. So, non-Christians tend to see us Christians in a number of bad ways. They see us as narrow-minded bigots, perhaps. You're going to hear that kind expression more and more as the 21st century unfolds here in the US, narrow-minded bigots. Killjoys, hypocrites, perhaps uneducated in some ways, worthy of mockery and disdain, this is the way that non Christians see Christians. But, once someone has been genuinely born again, that all changes. It is impossible to love the Father and not love His children. One of the great evidences of the transforming work of the Spirit of God is your love for all the saints, for other Christians. How can we explain this? How can we explain that I would say that any genuine Christian who is sitting and listening to me today, would much rather be in the extended presence of another spirit-filled Christian than even the most famous, or influential, or fascinating or athletically skillful non-Christian for a day. I would much rather spend the day or travel with a Spirit-filled Christian than even the most famous or influential non-Christian. I think you all know exactly why. “What fellowship does light have with darkness?” What are we going to talk about? We're going to disagree about the most important things. It doesn't mean that we can't have a communication or a relationship, we do try. I’m just telling you that I have deep love and attraction for other Christians, even if I've never met them. You know what I'm talking about. You can be with another Christian from another country. You could not even share the same language, but through a translator you have immediate fellowship with that person, man or woman, boy or girl. It is beautiful, the “love for all the saints.”
The Holy Spirit had worked in these Ephesians, a genuine work of conversion, a belief in the deity of Christ, the Lord Jesus, and a genuine love for all the saints. Now, let me just stop and apply this right now to you. Do you see these two things in your life? Can you rightly assess yourself and say, "I believe that Jesus is Lord. I believe in the deity of Jesus. I believe that He died on the cross for my sins. I believe that I am a sinner, saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus and I have called on the name of the Lord Jesus for my salvation. I believe that God raised Him from the dead, proving that He is Lord." Can you make that assertion and is it played out in you life by the way you treat other Christians? The genuine love that you have for the brothers and sisters. 1 John says a lot about this. You can't say “I love God and hate your brother.” If you are a genuine Christian, you're going to love other Christians. Do you see these evidences in yourself and if not I just plead with you now to trust in Christ for the salvation of your soul. It could be as Daniel said earlier, "This is the very reason why you came here today." That perhaps for the first time you understand the Gospel and now you call on the name of the Lord for your own salvation.
Thanksgiving: God is Responsible for Every Genuine Conversion
Well, Paul goes from this evidence that they're genuinely born again to thanksgiving to the God who brought it all about. I think this is just so vital. It could be that some of us are depressed, and sad, and struggling in life because we don't give thanks enough. We're not thankful to God in any and every circumstance. We haven't learned the discipline of thanking God at all times. So these two evidences of genuine conversion move Paul to thanksgiving. He thanked God because God the Father had sovereignly worked these things out through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. Paul gave credit where credit is due. It's so important that we see the theology of thanksgiving. There are so many things that I could say about that but what I want to go to is, you thank the one responsible. To the one who gave the gift, you say thank you to that one. We see the sovereignty of God in salvation by what Paul thanks God for. He thinks God is responsible for their salvation so He thanks God for it. I see the same thing in Romans 6:17. It's one of my favorite theology of thanksgiving verses. Romans 6:17 says this, "Thanks be to God that though you used to be slaves to sin you wholeheartedly obeyed that form of teaching to which you were entrusted.” I preached a sermon once with this simplified title from Romans 6:17, "Thank God You Obeyed." Now, meditate on that for the rest of the afternoon.
How in the world can I give God credit for something I did? Paul did. Thank God you obeyed. Thank God you believed. Thank God you repented. It is God who worked these things in you. Thank God you're a Christian! Paul does that. He gives thanks. Paul continually thanked God for his own conversion, but here he goes beyond that. He thanks God for other people's conversion. Thank God you obeyed, not just thank God I obeyed. I'm grateful for that, oh eternally grateful. But, I'm grateful for your salvation too and as a matter of fact, the more I think about it, the more I think that it's reasonable to be equally thankful for your salvation as for mine. The same God worked them both. So, I am growing in that discipline of thanking God. I know that when I get to Heaven I will be equally thankful for the salvation of all of my brothers and sisters in Christ as I am for my own because it will be a clear display of the sovereign grace of God. We need to give God thanks. We need to give thanks for our own salvation. You need to be like that one leper, the Samaritan, remember, that came back, the other nine walking on their way. Ten lepers cleansed. One of them remembered to go back and give thanks in Luke 17. He fell at Jesus's feet and couldn't stop crying and thanking God for his cleansing. We have received a greater cleansing than that. We have received cleansing from sin. We have been delivered from Hell. We have been adopted as sons and daughters of the living God. Thank Jesus every day. Thank God for your salvation, but then go beyond that. Thank God for other people's salvation. Do it in prayer. That's what Paul does.
Perseverance in Prayer
We also see the perseverance in prayer here. Paul says that from the first he heard, he has never stopped thanking God for them. He didn't just say one thanksgiving prayer, "Thank God for the Ephesian Christians." But he continued to thank God. Look at verses 15 and 16, "For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus, and you love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you. I have not ceased giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers."
The Need for Perseverance in Prayer
We need perseverance in prayer and this may be the rub here, this may be the problem. The fact that God is not a vending machine and that He doesn't immediately dispense the things that we ask Him for, even though they may very well be in His plan and may very well be in accordance with scripture. In Luke 18:1, Jesus taught them the parable of the persistent widow for the reason that they should always pray and never give up. Why are we tempted to give up? Because God's timetable is not our own. Because God will not be ruled by us. He is the King, we are the suppliants. We are the servants asking for grace and mercy. He's not the servant, the slave that comes immediately and does whatever we ask, but He takes into consideration our requests and does what His wise plan has ordained to do. Also, because prayer is meant to transform us as well as to transform circumstances. We are to be genuinely, gradually, consistently transformed by a habit of prayer. I think often of the idea of a piece of cold, black iron being put into a bed of coals and then the bellows by the blacksmith blowing air on it. It just has to be in there a while to get it heated up and soft, yielded to the blacksmith so it can be shaped and molded. My heart starts in prayer, cold and distant so I need to be there for a while. Not on just any one given prayer time but over a long period of time in my life. I need to ask again and again and again for these things.
Prayer is a form of training of our souls. What physical trainer ever says, "I want you to do one push up and one sit up for me today, there you're done." I know you'd love a trainer like that but you would have a kind of secret instinct that he or she wasn't doing you much good. You don't seem to be getting into better shape. I think you know why. But, a physical trainer that wisely pushes you close to the breaking point, you know that trainer is doing you some good. The Lord doesn't instantly answer our prayers. He wants to grow and to develop in maturity, to learn how dependent we are on Him. He wants us to care more about the things we're praying for and so we need perseverance in prayer. Paul prays day after day. He refused to rest. He refused to cease. He continued to give thanks for them. God was as worthy of thanksgiving on Wednesday as He had been on Tuesday of the previous week. It never changes. God is immutable. He always is worthy of thanksgiving. Paul literally made remembrance, he continued to think about them, remembering their names. He spoke their names to God in prayer and so should we be in our prayer lives. We notice that he also gives prayer to the “God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory.” Look at verse 17, "The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him."
Prayer to the God of Our Lord Jesus, the “Father of Glory”
Paul’s Prayer: Directed to God the Father
Paul's prayer is directly to God the Father. Here I want to give you a Trinitarian theology of prayer, based on scriptural evidence. The usual pattern of prayer is that prayer is made to God the Father by the mediating work of God the Son, Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit. As far as I know, there is no biblical evidence whatsoever for prayer directly to the Holy Spirit. As far as I can find there is only one prayer in the New Testament that is directly to Jesus. That is when Stephen was being martyred and he looked up and he saw heaven open and he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. He said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Now, I don't think it's wrong to prayer to Jesus or wrong to pray to the Holy Spirit. Considering the Holy Spirit, if you can blaspheme to the Spirit, why couldn't you speak or address the Spirit. I think you can. But, I think that the Bible gives us the pattern of prayer to the Father. One thing I'm concerned about is that people have a reluctance to come to the Father that they don't feel toward Jesus. They seem to have much more of an affinity toward Jesus than to the Father. That would be completely wrong and heartbreaking. Jesus came to bring us to the Father. He came to be the mediator, to point us to the Father. He always wanted us to be able to see the Father in Him. He came to reveal the Father to us and so we should prayer in the regular pattern. Prayer to God the Father through the mediating work of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. I think we see that in Ephesians 2:18. Maybe you could look ahead just a few verses. It says, "For through Him," that is through Jesus, the mediatorial work like He is a new and living way open for us, "through Him we both, Jews and Gentiles, have access to the Father by one Spirit." That's a Trinitarian verse on prayer. We have access to the Father. Prayer goes to the Father. We get there by the mediatorial work of Jesus on the cross.
True Prayer Begins with Remembering Who You’re Speaking To!
I think that true prayer should begin with remembering who you're speaking to. I think we should stop. We should pause. We should be extremely reverential as we go in to pray. I love what it says in Ecclesiastes 5. He said, "Do not be quick with your mouth and do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in Heaven and you are on earth so let your words be few." Now, that's all about reverence, isn't it? Don't just run glibly into God's presence. Pause, stop, be mindful. “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed by your name.” That kind of thing, a sense of greatness and majesty of God. Let's think about it. He is the “God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory.” Think about that before you go in.
Paul Prays to “The God of Our Lord Jesus Christ”
Now, what does Paul mean by, "The God of our Lord Jesus Christ?" Well, this is an identifier of God. Which God are we praying to? Remember how Paul was in Athens and he saw some shrine marked with these words, "To the unknown god." They were polytheists so they were trying to cover all the bases. I wonder if that unknown god would have been pleased with that or offended. But, we're not polytheists. We don't believe in an unknown god. We believe in One God and that He has revealed Himself to us by means of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ and by means of the Holy Spirit's work in the scripture and in creation. God identifies Himself. In the Old Testament you see this again and again. “I am the God of Abraham” or “I am the God who appeared to you at Bethel.” Or He says to Moses at the burning bush, "I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." He identifies Himself that way. "I am the God who appeared to your fathers." But, Jesus is the mediator of a new and better covenant. This is a better way to identify the God that we're praying to. He is the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus, our Lord Jesus, approached God the Father as a man. He believed in the Father. He trusted the Father. He obeyed the Father. He loved His Father. He prayed to His Heavenly Father. He sought to please His Father at every moment. After His resurrection, He spoke to the redeemed. He spoke to the church in this way in John 20:17, He said, "Go to my brothers and tell them I'm returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” The exact same relationship I have with the Father, I have now made for you." So, He is our Father as He is also Jesus's Father. Now, He is the only begotten Son of God. We are adopted children, but He is our Father. He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and Jesus came into the world to reveal the Father to us. Hebrews 1:3, "He is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being." "When we see Him, we've seen the Father," it says in John 14. Now, here Paul calls Him the Father of Glory. Think about that. What does that mean, the Father of Glory? The NIV has “the Glorious Father,” but I like the Father of Glory as though He is not only glorious Himself, but He is the Father of all Glory, all emanations of illumination and radiation that there is in the universe, come from God as the source. He is the source of all the rivers of glory that there are in the universe. Everything comes from God.
Now, what is the glory of God the Father? We think of the radiant display of God's perfections, the shining radiance who He is. He is the Father of Glory. It says in 1 Timothy 6:16, "God alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light." I was meditating on that, "unapproachable light." I was thinkin about, what is that like? You know, it says in Isaiah 6, "The seraphim were covering their faces." Unapproachable light, the glory of God. I pictured the sun, 93 million miles away, but I thought, "Wouldn't it be something is God could make a special deal for us for just a day, and we could be 1000 miles away from the sun." He'd have to do a Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego thing, surrounding us with a bubble of protection from the heat and radiation of the sun. But, we're just thinking about light. The sun is 103 times larger across the diameter than the earth so you could fit 103 earths, stacked up across the diameter. Let's say that we're at 51, right in the middle and were about 500,000 miles away from the sun. You'd look up in the sky and all you would see would be fire, raging, overwhelming light and fire. No heat because we have that special Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego bubble. We would be there and there's radiant light. That's what I think of being unapproachable light. That is the God that we're praying to, the Father of Glory. There will come a day in the New Heaven and the New Earth when the sun will be going. The sun, the moon and the stars will be gone. The whole world will shine, it will be radiating with the Glory of God through Jesus. That's the Father of Glory. He is the source of all glory.
As we begin to pray, we come with a sense of overwhelming awe and reverence. There is a sense of the majesty, the infinite majesty of God and how great He is. Now, what is the goal of this prayer? Well, it's knowing God. Look again at verse 17, "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give you a Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him."
The Goal of Prayer: Knowing God
Paul’s First Intercession
Now, this is the first of a series of intercessions. We're not going to deal with the rest of them today, there's just too many of them, and they are wonderful. We're just going to zero in on the first intercession. We come to God because He is capable of giving us infinitely more than all we could ask or imagine. We glorify God by asking for great things because He's a great God and God wants to make our requests made known to Him. And the first request should be, "Oh, God, I want to know you better. And I want this brother and this sister to know you better. That's what I want. I want the knowledge of God."
Now, Paul is going to pray many more things than this, but he starts with this, that the Ephesian Christians would have the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God,” that they would know Him. They are already Christians, already born again and he's praying, "Oh, that they would know you better. That they would know you more fully, more deeply and more richly.
An Infinite Study
A.W. Tozer in his classic, "Knowledge of the Holy," said this, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." What comes into your mind when you think about God? It's the most important thing about you. So said A.W. Tozer and J.I. Packer, in his classic, "Knowing God," said this, "What makes life worthwhile is having a big enough objective, something which catches our imagination, something which lays hold of our allegiance. This the Christian has, in a way that no other person has, for what higher, more exalted and more compelling goal can there be than to know God?" That is the organizing directive of your life from here to eternity, beyond the time when you're raised from the dead in a resurrection body. On into the New Heaven and New Earth, you're going to still be learning God, forever, the knowledge of God. It's an infinite study and we're going to be studying it forever.
Jesus’ Deep Heart Cry for Us
Now, this is Jesus's deep cry in John 17. This is His definition of eternal in John 17:3, "Now this is eternal, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent." That's what eternal is, to know God. This is the great tragedy of the lostness of the world. John 17:25 says, "Righteous Father, the world has not known You." This is the work that Jesus does in every Christian at conversion. John 17:6, "I have revealed You to those whom You have given to Me out of the world.” I revealed You to them. This is the ongoing work that He wants to continue doing. John 17:26, "I have made You known to them and I will continue to make You known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and I myself may be in them."
What is this “Knowledge”?
So, what is this knowledge of God? What does it mean that they may know God? Well, it is factual. It is knowledge about God, facts about God, truths about God that come from scripture. Who He is, what He's done, His great acts in the past, these come from the pages of scripture. Facts about God. We should be zealous to gain as many facts as we can from the Bible about who God is, about His attributes, His actions, about His plans and purposes in the world, what it teaches about Him. Facts about God, but God wants far more than just that. Now, we know that no true relationship can be without factual knowledge. You can imagine a couple just beginning their relationship. They're sitting down, they're having a cup of coffee and they have one thing on their mind. Tell me about yourself, I want to know who you are. Maybe it started with eHarmony.com, I don't know. I mean, it begins with something. It's amazing how people get together these days. I was talking to a Christian about that and he said, "Are you OK with that?" I said, "Well look what happened with Isaac and Rebekah and that whole camel thing. He went and got a servant, came back with her and that was that. They got married." So, I'm not sure what they conversed about on their wedding night. It's like, "Tell me your name, at least. Let's get to know each other." There's some information that we need to have here. So, I'm thinking eHarmony has more filtering going on than happened with Rebekah and Isaac. But, the servant went out and he was serving Abraham and brought the wife back for Isaac and it worked out great. Be careful with what you do with what I just said. I'm not going to that "Nth" degree, "Pastor said it was fine!" All I'm saying is that relationships begin with a passing, a giving and receiving of factual knowledge. That’s what I’m saying. There's no relationship without it. I actually knew a couple once that had no common language between them when they got married. They got married in the 1920's, a Swedish woman and an Italian man. They both spoke broken English, so that was interesting. Anyway, moving on. The passing of factual information is not enough. There needs to be a covenant love, a deep love relationship. Think about James 2:19, "You believe that there is One God, good. Even the demons believe that and they shudder." Demons have more factual knowledge about God than you do. Factual knowledge is essential, but it's not enough. There has to be a heart of love, a covenant love relationship of affection. In Matthew 7 Jesus said this, "Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven but only those who do the will of my Father who is in Heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name and in your name, drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Away from me, you evil doers." What is Jesus saying there? Not, I don't have any facts about you. Oh, He has all the facts about them, 100% of the facts. But, they had no love relationship.
So, are you conscious of the presence of God in your life by the Holy Spirit? Do you have a sense of His presence with you? A sense of intimacy with God? A sense that He loves you? That He calls you His son or daughter, that He calls you by name. If you have a sense of intimacy and love affection with God, that's what knowledge of God means. A sense of close covenant relationship. Like David said in Psalm 63, "Oh, God you are my God. Earnestly I seek you. My soul thirsts for You. My body longs for You in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen You in the sanctuary and beheld Your power and Your glory because Your love is better than life. My lips will glorify You." A sense of that kind of intimacy with Moses and God on Mount Sinai where he says, " Now show me Your glory." And He says, "No one can see My face and live. I'll put in the cleft of the rock and I'll cover you with My hand. You'll see My back as I do by." There's that intimacy between God and Moses. Do you have a sense of a love relationship with God? A sense of the presence of God? I think it's a matter of savoring God, of tasting, of seeing and savoring God. Like it says in Psalm 34:8, "Taste and see that the Lord is good." Imagine, picture a table with a heavy white linen tablecloth and like a cut crystal dish and a scoop of raspberry sorbet and a heavy spoon next to it, plated with silver. Imagine picking up that heavy spoon and scooping out raspberry sorbet, and putting it in your mouth and it's melting on your tongue. You can taste the raspberry and then swallow. Well, that description is not the same as eating the raspberry sorbet. There's nothing that I can say verbally that will be equal to experience of actually having it on your tongue. Have you experienced the love of God?
Jonathan Edwards, in his classic sermon, "Divine and Supernatural Light," put it this way, "There's a difference between having an opinion that God is holy and gracious and having a sense of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. There's a difference in having a rational judgement that honey is sweet and having a sense of that sweetness. A man may have the former that knows not how honey tastes but a man cannot have the later unless he has had the idea of the taste of honey in his mind.” “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
The Means to That Goal: The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation
“Spirit” not “spirit” of Wisdom
Alright, so that's the end of Paul's prayer for the Ephesians. What's the means to the end? He says that it's the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.” Well, here I believe, different than almost every English translation, that the "S" in Spirit should be capitalized. I don't know if it is in the ESV. I know it's not in the NIV. So, what's the difference in lowercase “spirit” and uppercase “Spirit”? Well, uppercase Spirit would refer to the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Lowercase spirit would be a disposition in the human heart, a spirit inside yourself. Thank kind of thing. A spirit of wisdom.
I think it makes perfect sense that we were just a moment ago talking about the sealing of the Spirit. That this is the ministry of the Holy Spirit of God, to give you “wisdom and revelation and the knowledge of Him.” It is the Holy Spirit's work to unveil God and to make God appear glorious to you. It is the Holy Spirit's work to do this in our hearts. That is the Spirit of revelation. 1 Corinthians 2:10, 11 says, "The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's Spirit within him. In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” So the Spirit searches these things and brings them to us.
The Spirit of Revelation
Now, He doesn't do this by extrabiblical revelations. That's where cults start. Muhammad had a revelation from an angel and wrote the Koran. Joseph Smith had a revelation from an angel and wrote the Book of Mormon. Mary Baker Eddy had a revelation and started Christian Science. Those are cults or false religions. I'm not talking about a spirit of revelation that comes outside the bible. I think it comes from what the Lord has given us through the ministry of the Apostles and Prophets, the church built on the foundation of the Scripture, the Apostles and Prophets, and the Holy Spirit takes the scripture and makes the truths about God clear to you. He illuminates your mind and your heart. We'll talk more about that, God willing, in the future. The Holy Spirit illuminates and makes these things clear, without that illumination, you'll never know God.
Martin Lloyd-Jones told the story about a relationship between William Wilberforce who was an evangelical Christian, politician, tremendous leader in England in the early part of the 1800's, who was instrumental in the fight against the slave trade and eventually against slavery itself. He had a good friend named William Pitt, who was Prime Minister, not a believer. Wilberforce was deeply concerned with his friend. Deeply concerned with his soul. He would try to give him books. He would try to share different things with him. William Pitt was a brilliant man. The two of them had interesting, spicy conversations but still, nothing. Well, one day, William Wilberforce heard that a famous preacher, a power preacher named Richard Cecil was preaching nearby where they lived. So, he persuaded William Pitt to go with him to hear. Wilberforce said, "I had never heard a clearer exposition of the Gospel of Jesus Christ." Never clearer explanation of the deity of Christ, the death of Christ on the cross, His resurrection from the dead and the need for repentance and faith. So much so that Wilberforce was swimming in tears. But, Pitt sitting next to him was not moved at all and afterward Wilberforce asked, "Well, what did you think?" He said, "I must tell you, Wilberforce, I concentrated carefully on everything that man said. I tried to follow his train of thought and his argumentation and honestly, I have no idea what he's talking about." Now, William Pitt was more intelligent than Wilberforce, but if the Spirit of God does not give you wisdom and “revelation and the knowing of Him,” you will never know Him. But, if the Spirit of God does give you wisdom and revelation, you will know Him more and more. That is the work of the Spirit.
Application & Prayer
Now, what can we take from this. What I would say is, I've already made an appeal to non-Christians to believe. I'm now going to make an appeal to you Christians to pray like this. This is a simple application. Look at your prayer life and say, "Do I pray like Paul prayed? Do I pray without ceasing with thanksgiving to God the Father in the name of Jesus, by the power of the Spirit? And do I pray for other Christians like this and for myself? And, if not, I'm going to urge you and plead with you. Go to God and say, "Make me a prayer warrior. Change my prayer life. Give me this kind of intimacy that you gave to the Apostle Paul."
Father, we thank you now for what we've learned in Ephesians concerning Paul's prayer life and concerning what he prayed for, for the Ephesian Christians and we give you thanks for it. We ask that you would transform our prayer lives, oh Lord. Make us powerful prayer warriors. Enable us, oh Lord, to pray as Paul prayed for the Ephesian Christians, that we would see an unleashing of power here in First Baptist Church as we have never seen before even in our lifetime. We pray in Jesus's name. Amen.