May God Open the Eyes of Our Understanding ...
Dearest Jesus, our ascended Savior and Lord, we come before You this evening in worship to sing Your praises, to hear Your instruction, and to seek Your blessings. Send Your Spirit to fill our hearts with true devotion, as we seek faithfully to follow You. Amen.
The Psalmist David speaks prophetically of Jesus’ future ascension into heaven, His victory over all enemies, and the blessing He would give men during His eternal reign.
The evangelist Luke records for us the gospel commission Jesus gave His disciples, the details surrounding His ascension into heaven, and the angelic promise that Jesus would one day return.
Text: Ephesians 1:15-23
Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
In Christ Jesus, our ascended Lord and our Head, dear fellow redeemed:
“Pastor, I don’t need the gospel, so just stop bothering me!” “Pastor, there are days when I feel like my life is a soap opera.” “Pastor, I feel encouraged when I talk to you in your office, but when I step out of the church my fears return like dark clouds overhead.”
During my years of ministry, I have heard comments similar to each of these—some of them multiple times. They are cries—some angry, some frustrated, some fearful—inspired by the darkness of sin in this world. The apostle John used the contrast of light over against darkness, when he opened his Gospel speaking of Jesus as “the Light” entering a world filled with the darkness of sin (cf. 1:4-5). John states that Jesus as “the true Light…gives light to every man coming into the world” (1:8). The tragedy is that some do not see the need for such Light and so reject it in favor of darkness, while for others the brightness of that Light fades as Satan attempts to overwhelm them with ever greater darkness.
My dear friends, Ascension Day is an illumination day—a day which should expel the darkness of sin and open our eyes to the reality of our Savior’s glory and the certainty of His plans for us as members of His body. Yes, on this day Jesus ascended into heaven, and His heavenly Father “seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion…. He put all things under His feet, and have Him to be head over all things to the church!” Dear friends, in view of Jesus’ power, glory, and commitment to each of us MAY GOD OPEN THE EYES OF OUR UNDERSTANDING to the glory of His calling, to the riches of the glory of His inheritance in connection with us—His saints, and to the exceeding greatness of His power toward us!
Yes, MAY GOD OPEN THE EYES OF OUR UNDERSTANDING to the glory of His calling! In the verses preceding our text, the apostle Paul speaks of the wonders of God’s eternal love for us. He states that “He (God) chose us in Him (Jesus) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ” (1:4-5). He goes on to say that God “made us accepted in the Beloved” (1:6) and that “in Him (Jesus) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (1:7). Having predestined us, having redeemed us, having accepted us all in connection with Jesus, Paul finally assures us that we have been “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (1:13). The glory of our calling involves God’s love from eternity and into eternity! Consequently, the apostle Peter could say, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
When God opens the eyes of our understanding to the glory of His calling in our lives, it gives our lives both specific direction and greater purpose. God does not want us to limit our thinking just to this present life and the material aspects of this present life. Paul writes later in Ephesians, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord” (5:8-10). We are no longer subject to Satan, who would blind our eyes to our eternal future and expanded purpose. We are no longer enslaved by our temporal passions, seeking only our personal welfare and securing only our temporal desires. Rather, we have been freed to see our greater good and purpose for which God has called us into a personal relationship. We are part of a greater whole—the body of Christ, and so in additional to those personal goals, which each of us are given by God, we also have corporate goals—the edifying of the entire body of Christ in love—the proclamation of the gospel throughout this world—the expansion of Christ’s kingdom.
I would encourage you to read the latest information sent by Pastor Joythi Benjamin from the CLCI regarding their Vacation Bible School efforts—over 1150 children enrolled with over 125 new children, many of whom came from Hindu families, hearing about Christ for the very first time. God had called us to be part of this and other efforts to share the light of Jesus Christ with those in darkness, for it is only through the light of the gospel of Jesus that people in this world will find hope of everlasting life.
Yes, MAY GOD OPEN THE EYES OF OUR UNDERSTANDING, secondly, to the riches of the glory of His inheritance in connection with us—His saints! If you have hope, you can endure anything. If you lose hope, you will fall before anything. As children of God we have been declared God’s “saints”—individuals made holy not by their own efforts, but by the precious blood of Christ and called to be separate from this sinful world and dedicated to God. What is so wonderful about being God’s saints is that we can walk through life with absolute confidence that we have a glorious future waiting for us—the inheritance of eternal life in heaven.
Jesus assures us, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I got to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3). The apostle Paul writes, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). The apostle John records a further promise of Jesus, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10b).
Each of these passages speak of the glorious future God has planned for us—His saints. If we know that this is what God has planned for us after this life, there are certain deduction we can make, which are most helpful as we live our present lives. The apostle Paul addresses one of them in Romans 8, when he declares that if God gave up His Son to secure our eternal future, He will certainly see to it that all of our needs here in the present are met (verse 32). In addition, Paul also confirms for us that when we face difficulties here in this world as His saints, it is not because God has abandoned us, or that He is punishing us, but rather He has seen fit for some reason to permit a problem to enter our lives with the goal in mind of teaching us something important for our life and to help us with our faithful service in this life (cf. Romans 5:3-5).
MAY GOD OPEN THE EYES OF OUR UNDERSTANDING, finally, to the exceeding greatness of His power toward us! It is relatively easy for us to say that we know God is all-powerful, but it is seldom easy to comprehend the meaning of that truth or to put it into practice when it comes to trusting in God explicitly in our lives. Every time we worry, every time we question, every time we are fearful, we are demonstrating a lack of trust—a failure completely to understanding the exceeding great of God’s power toward us.
God wants us to know that our ascended Lord and Savior is watching over us from heaven above. Indeed, He has promised to be with us until the end of this present age (cf. Matthew 28:20). That means that we are never alone—even in those darkest of hours, when all hope seems to slip away.
Isaiah the prophet foretold the Messiah’s coming and spoke of how Jesus would “come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him” (40:10). He then went on to say that He would “feed His flock like a shepherd; He would gather the lambs with His arm (that strong arm), and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young” (40:11). When Jesus did come some seven centuries later, He identified Himself as “the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11), who would give His sheep the gift of eternal life and never allow anyone to “snatch them (His sheep) out of My (His) hand” (John 10:28).
My dear friends, may God open the eyes of our understanding to the powerful meaning of these truths. When we are facing sickness and our bodies are riddled with disease, God is more powerful than anything that can wreak havoc with our bodies. When we are facing marital, or familial, or financial crises, Jesus has not abandoned us, casting us from His arms. He will continue to provide strength and wisdom as we wait upon Him and seek to know His will. When we are frustrated, let us turn to Jesus; when we are weary, let us rely upon Jesus; when we are sick and near death, let us rejoice that Jesus is so powerful that death itself was not able to contain Him, even as it will not be able to contain us.
Yes, Ascension Day is an illumination day, casting light out into the darkness of this sin-filled world, instilling joy and confidence within the hearts of all who believe. MAY GOD OPEN THE EYES OF OUR UNDERSTANDING to the hope of His calling, to the riches of the glory of His inheritance in connection with us—His saints, and to the exceeding greatness of His power toward us! Amen.
Soli Dei Gloria!
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting