Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Eyes Opened and Countenance Lifted (Ephesians 1:18)

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,” (Ephesians 1:18, NASB95)

Not only was Paul praying for them that they would grow in their understanding and knowledge of God in Christ, but that the “eyes of their hearts might be enlightened….” In thinking of this I thought first of the great joy in these words. Being around little babies, it is amazing to see how people’s faces light up when they see them. These little lives that are all eyes taking in all that they see bring great joy to those who get to stare into them. Of course, many take great liberties by ticking toes or grabbing cheeks, but it is their precious little faces and the apparent innocence of them that screams loudly of the joy in their new lives. It is this kind of picture that I have of my heart being opened to see who my God is and what He has done for me.

In contrast, we don’t have to look far to find people that are downcast and in a sense their hearts are heavy with darkness such that there appears to be no life nor light in them. In October of last year the Associated Press reported that the U.S. suicide rate had reached its highest percentage level in 25 years, rising to “12.6 suicide deaths per 100,000 Americans.” 12.6 may seem like a small number in comparison with 100,000 people, but consider that the U.S. population according to the U.S. Population clock on the date of that report’s release was 319,578,767. Taking the liberty to break this down a bit that would have meant that they estimated over 40,000 suicides for that previous year which is greater than the entire population of Grants Pass, Oregon where I live (at just over 35,000 in 2013). This does not include those who attempted to do so, those who thought seriously about it, or those who took the lives of others. It also does not include the huge numbers of expectant mothers who saw their lives as something different unless they took the life of their unborn child. All of these numbers point to a totally different picture, one that is founded in desperation, shattered lives and dreams, and a sense of hopelessness and having their hands tied in one way or another. For them to some degree there at least passed through their minds and weighed heavy on their hearts the sense that they had no other reasonable option. Yet for those who are still taking breath there remains hope—the hope that our God would open the eyes of their hearts as well.

In 2 Corinthians 4 we have a contrast between those whose hearts have been illuminated by God to know the hope of being called by Him and our rich inheritance in Christ and those who eyes remained darkened. “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:1–6, NASB95)

What an amazing thing it is that God chose men such as Paul to reach into the lives of others with the truth of who God is knowing that as he (and others) did and do this the light bulb of God’s Spirit illuminating the hearts of those who hear. Paul rejoiced in the knowledge that the Ephesians believers had been granted such light, and he prayed that they would then walk in the light as they grew in their knowledge and understanding of God. In his prayer we see this desire that they not listen to the voices of darkness and have their hearts darkened, but that they would continually be illumined by the Spirit of God working in them as they lived with hope and a growing understanding of their great inheritance.

Returning to Corinthians, Paul continued, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;” … “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:7, 16–18, NASB95)

We are reminded in Scripture that the life that we live is not one that we live in the flesh (or our own strength and understanding) but one that we live with our eyes fully on God as His Spirit works. In Galatians 2:20 we read, ““I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20, NASB95) In walking through Ephesians we have been focusing somewhat on what it is to be “in Christ.” As we dig deeper and deeper into these verses of Ephesians and explore Paul’s desire for these and other believers (of which we read in his other letters), we see that being in Christ is a life turned toward Him as we trust in Him and walk before Him in the strength and wisdom which God supplies through His Spirit working in us. It is not a life muscled through in our strength as we grit our teeth for God, but a life of trust Him as we find our joy and hope in Him even in the most difficult circumstances, knowing that He will bring us through to the other side.

Paul encouraged these believers to keep their eyes on Christ and the great hope they have and Him. He told them as their eyes looked up their countenance as well would be lifted up as they looked forward expectantly to their great inheritance and trust Him for the strength for every day.

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