As I listened to Andrew preaching his first sermon in a Port Anglican service, I was struck by his love for the written word [the Bible] and by his obvious love for the Living Word [Jesus]. I was also encouraged to hear of his experience of God’s power in his life over many years. I was motivated by what he said to reflect on the passage set for the day which was on “Christ the King” / ”The Reign of Christ.” I was surprised to read of so many “power” words in the passage from Ephesians 1:15-23. Perhaps I am looking for “power” these days when I see so little of the power of God I once observed in the church.
The world needs love
Once I loved hearing Dionne Warwick sing, “What the world needs now is love sweet love, it’s the only thing there’s just too little of.” I felt that was true in days gone by. However, it seems to me that the world has changed. It still needs love but it doesn’t seem to understand what love is. It’s a reminder of the time when the world was challenged by the greatest demonstration of genuine love the world has ever seen. Did they accept it? No! They crucified Him!
They would do the same today! So many in the world have twisted the concept of love so much that it almost means the opposite to what it once did. For some folk today “tolerance” has replaced “love”. People “love” the concept of tolerance but some of them are extremely intolerant and unloving of those who do not interpret “tolerance” as they do!
Many of us in the church used to think that if only people could see true love, their hearts would be softened. So we preached about the love of God, trusting that some would recognise His love and give their hearts to Him. Many did! But the world has continued to change in such a way that it seems many folk cannot think logically. They want to shut down rational debate on various issues. They want to hold on to what they were taught at some universities [which many sincere academics of other unis warn us is to accept what liberal lecturers say and to reject all other interpretations.] Instead of open enquiry at some unis, it is closed thinking! Logicality is being replaced by absurdity! Absurdity is becoming the new “normal” in many parts of the world [and unfortunately, in some parts of the church where the Bible has been rejected and where Christ is not given His rightful place.]
Does today’s world need a demonstration of the power of God, as well as love?
It has made me wonder whether, in addition to preaching about the love of God for sinners, we should be praying earnestly for God to exhibit His power, not just to confirm what we say [as He often does], but to show people He is at work in the world today. [NOTE 1] There was a time when one could see demonstrations of the love and power of God at work in the lives of humans, as people’s eyes were opened to understand the gospel and also to experience physical and emotional healings of various types. Somehow the church at large has lost a sense of the power of God and has little expectancy for God to work powerfully today.
It is frightening to see the Church of England, with its marvellous history of wonderful men and women of God touching human lives for good, self-imploding as it turns away from Christ and from the Christian gospel. God cannot empower a church that turns its back on Him. His power is available to those who realise they need Him and His power and who humble themselves to ask Him for His empowering.
Whoa! A change in direction! Love! Power! Is something else needed?
I was about to go on to consider all the power words in Eph 1:15-23 but then I was challenged by the thought that many of the people of Jesus’ day saw His incredible power at work and it didn’t change them. On one occasion, many witnessed the effects of a miraculous healing and yet they asked Jesus to leave their district! In Mat 8:28-34 we read that Jesus ministered to two men with demons and set them free. The demons were permitted by Jesus to enter into pigs as verse 32 shows “and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters.” It had an impact on the herdsmen who had been looking after the pigs, “The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men.” Mat 8:32. Two dangerous men totally set free and in their right minds! Alleluia! Praise the Lord! Out come all the city to thank Him and to praise Almighty God. Pardon? No, they didn’t! Instead we read this, “And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.” Mat 8:34. Here were creatures telling the Creator to “Buzz off! We don’t want you around here!” Jesus in His ministry of love was saying to people in need, “Come!” These people in their spiritual blindness were saying to Jesus, “Go!” He did! He doesn’t impose Himself on those who have no time for Him but is always there for those who turn to Him in their need.
We read of other occasions in the ministry of Jesus where He exercised miraculous power. Some folk were motivated to believe in Him and to follow Him. Others witnessing the same mighty work of God through Jesus were motivated to try to kill Him! Many who had seen His miracles, when faced with the choice between Barabbas a murderer and Jesus, chose Barabbas. When asked what should happen to Jesus they cried out “Crucify Him!” The miracles may have been signs pointing to the truth about Jesus as the divine Son of God and the promised Messiah, but they did not compel belief in the lives of some of the people in Jesus’ day.
What then might be needed in today’s world? Love? Yes! Power? Yes! But also enlightenment by God to be able to know His hope, His riches and to experience His power!
An answer came as I again looked at the text from Eph 1:15-23. In verse 15 Paul had been praising God for the faith and love of the saints in Ephesus. But he was led to pray for them that they might know something they could not know apart from a revelation from God. What did he pray? He prayed thus, Eph 1:17 “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe… .”
Paul’s readers needed to allow the Spirit to reveal a deeper knowledge of Jesus to them. The NIV has the translation, “so that you may know him better.” What else needed to happen so that they understood more fully who Jesus was and what they had in Jesus? Verse 18 gives the answer. They needed to have the eyes of their hearts “enlightened”. That presupposes that eyes can be in darkness or in ignorance of reality. That is how the word phōtízō, [φωτίζω to enlighten] is used in these verses. We note that the word is used in the following ways,
It is used of Jesus, John 1:9 “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” The world was in darkness until Jesus the light of the world came to enlighten it. Jesus will come again and will bring enlightenment about hidden things. 1Cor 4:5 “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart …” Jesus appeared to bring truth about life and immortality. 2Tim 1:9 “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel …”
It is used of St Paul. His message was to bring to light the purposes of God. Eph 3:8 “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”
It is used of believers in Hebrews. They had been in darkness but had been enlightened through the gospel message. Heb 6:4 “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit. … .” AND Heb 10:32 “But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings …”
The New Testament sees unbelievers are being in the darkness, ignorant of the reality that is in Jesus, with minds darkened or closed or blinded to the gospel message. There is no way they can know or understand the things mentioned in Eph 1; 18-23, namely, the hope of the Christian calling, or the riches of the glorious inheritance in glory for God’s people, nor the immeasurable greatness of His power. Darkness is banished as light shines. Jesus is the light of the world and gives light today to those who turn to Him in faith.
What we need to be praying then is for unbelievers’ eyes to be opened to the gospel message, to the person of Jesus, to what He has done in His death and resurrection, to an understanding of His love, to the reality of God’s kingdom power at work in the world. Only then will they be able to receive His love and His power in their lives by turning from darkness to Jesus the light of the world.
Well, it’s almost time to introduce those exciting power words I was mentioning above. But mercy prevails and I leave that to the next article [Part2].
NOTE 1] The apostles preached the gospel message and God confirmed their message by signs. “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.” Mark 16:20. The same confirmation took place when Paul and Barnabas were preaching, “So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders.” Acts 14:3.
Blog No.250. Posted on jimholbeck.blog on Thursday 30th November 2017